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France renews backing for Syrian rebels, denies troop moves

  • France is offering renewed support to Syrian rebels fighting Islamic extremists.
  • It is not prepared to send troops to help the rebels resist a Turkish military offensive.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron met Thursday with Syrian opposition forces in Paris.

France is offering renewed support to Syrian rebels fighting Islamic extremists — but is not preparing to send troops to help the rebels resist a Turkish military offensive.

French President Emmanuel Macron met Thursday with Syrian opposition forces in Paris. Afterward, a Kurdish leader at the meeting claimed that Macron had promised to send troops to Manbij near Syria's border with Turkey.

The Kurdish-Arab town is under threat of a Turkish military operation that has already complicated the war in Syria. The Kurdish claim deeply angered Turkey — and raised fears that France was ready for a military conflict with Turkey, a fellow NATO member.

An official in Macron's office denied any such plans, saying Friday that Macron only promised the Syrian rebels to "continue this fight together" against Islamic State extremists in the area.

The French official said the Turkish offensive in northern Syria "must stop," saying it is threatening the broader U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State group.

The official said France is re-evaluating the needs in the fight against IS but hasn't received any requests for reinforcements in the area.

France has led airstrikes on Syria as part of the coalition and is believed to have special forces in Syria.

Macron's office wouldn't comment on the different interpretations of what happened at his meeting with the Syrian Democratic Forces.

A member of the Council of Democratic Kurds in France, Agit Polat, told The Associated Press that Macron pledged at the meeting to send French forces to Manbij.

Turkey has threatened to march on Manbij and wrest it from Kurdish hands after its forces won a resounding victory over Kurdish fighters earlier this month and took control of Afrin, a town 60 miles (100 kilometers) to the west.

Ankara says Syrian Kurdish militiamen it views as "terrorists" and an extension of Kurdish insurgents inside Turkey, is in control of the town

Macron demanded the civilian population be given full access to humanitarian aid in Afrin during the Elysee meeting.

Macron also pledged French support in maintaining security in Turkey, and reiterated France's opposition to the Kurdish rebel group, PKK.

Macron praised the SDF, saying it is courageously fighting the Islamic State group, and pledged it French support.