Kurds call for larger French role after US leaves Syria

A senior Kurdish politician Friday called on France to play a stronger role in Syria following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, warning that Kurdish fighters may have to withdraw from the front lines in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Ilham Ahmed also said France as a NATO member has a moral obligation to prevent Turkey from attacking Kurds.

Ahmed was in Paris as part of a delegation attending talks on the planned U.S. military withdrawal from Syria and Turkey's threats to launch a military operation against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria.

The delegation met French President Emanuel Macron's representative to Syria, Francois Senemand.

President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria has left America's only allies in the country in the lurch and risks plunging the volatile region into even more instability.

The announcement has been widely seen as an abandonment of a loyal ally, even though the U.S. partnership with the Kurds against the Islamic State group in Syria was always considered a temporary marriage of convenience. With U.S. air support, the Kurds drove IS from much of northern and eastern Syria in a costly four-year campaign.

"The decision to pull out under these circumstances will lead to a state of instability and create a political and military void in the region and leave its people between the claws of enemy forces," a statement by the Kurdish-led group and main U.S. ally in Syria said Thursday.

The U.S. announcement came at a particularly tense moment in northern Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly warned of launching a new offensive against the Kurds and in recent days has stepped up the rhetoric, threatening that an assault could begin "at any moment."

Turkey views the People's Protection Units, or YPG, the main component of the Syrian Democratic Forces, as a terrorist group and an extension of the insurgency within its borders. U.S. support for the group has strained ties between the two NATO allies.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday said his country welcomed the decision by Trump to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

Cavusoglu spoke during a visit to Malta in comments that were broadcast on Turkish television. They marked the first official reaction to the U.S. decision to pull out troops.

The minister spoke of a need to coordinate the withdrawal with the United States and said all countries need to be vigilant toward the remnants of the Islamic State group.

Cavusoglu also warned that the withdrawal should not create a vacuum that could be filled by terrorist groups.

The German government, meanwhile, said it wasn't consulted by Washington before the U.S. announced the troop withdrawal.

Government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer told reporters in Berlin on Friday that Germany would have appreciated prior consultations.

Demmer said the U.S. decision could affect the dynamics of the conflict, adding that "much remains to be done" for a final victory over the Islamic State group.

She said the United States is an "important ally" but declined to say whether Germany also considers it a "reliable" one.

German Defense Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said the decision has no immediate impact on Germany's aerial surveillance missions over Syria.

___

Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Berlin, Suzan Fraser in Ankara and Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.