A map reportedly detailing the location of French military bases in northern Syria was published Friday by Turkish press agency Anadolu, a day after French President Emmanuel Macron assured the Syrian Democratic Forces of France’s support.
The visit by Syrian Kurdish representatives to the French presidential palace on Thursday was watched closely by the Turkish government who were anything but happy.
A map purportedly showing French military positions in Syria published by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency on its website Friday could be seen as a direct response to Thursday’s visit.
The five military bases are believed to be mostly located in the north of the country in regions controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces. According to Anadolu, close to 70 French soldiers may currently be operating in the northeast of Syria.
On Thursday, President Macron met representatives of the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, at his presidential palace. The SDF are a multi-ethnic, multi-religious alliance of both Syrian Kurdish and Arabic fighters. Macron pledged his support to the SDF, stating that he hoped “dialogue would open up between the SDF and Turkey.”
Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted angrily to the meeting, declaring he was “extremely saddened by France’s… wrong stance on this.” He also slammed France’s offer to mediate between his country and “a terrorist organisation.”
If proved true, the information about the location of the military bases could prove dangerous for French troops. Its release could represent a warning from the Turkish government to France.
FRANCE 24 chose not to republish the map released by the Turkish agency, as the information on it couldn’t be verified.
Political crisis between France and Turkey
After meeting with Macron, a representative from the Syrian Kurds in Paris declared that the French president had promised to send French troops to Manbij.
On Friday however, the Office of the French President denied this, saying that “France is not planning any new military operation in northern Syria outside of the international anti-Daech coalition.”
In June 2016, the French Minister of Defence admitted that French special forces were deployed in Syria to advise the SDF on how to better fight the Islamic State organization, especially in Manbij. However, Paris has remained tight-lipped about the number and location of its military presence in Syria.
In July 2017, Anadolu news agency published a map of what it claimed were the locations of ten American military bases in the same zone, in reaction to US arms delivery to Kurdish Syrian fighters. At the time, it claimed that there were 75 French soldiers in the zone, many of them in a base near Racca. The Pentagon refused to comment on this information.