UK praises Turkey’s efforts to stem flow of foreign fighters
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants stand next to an ISIL flag atop a hill in the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border. AFP PhotoBritish Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has praised Turkey’s efforts to stop the flow of foreign fighters traveling to join Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria, amid mounting pressure on the country to do more about the issue.
“Turkey is doing a fantastic job of intercepting people who are seeking to get across the border,” Hammond said on late Jan. 22, during a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after a London meeting.
Earlier on Jan. 22, two British media outlets, The Times and The Independent, had quoted Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as saying that the flow of fighters was “unstoppable” due to the sheer length of the border between Turkey and Syria, which extends over 800 kilometers.
“Of course, the Turkish prime minister was absolutely right; they cannot be 100 percent successful because of the nature of that border, but they are doing a great job,” Hammond said.
Hammond, Kerry and al-Abadi met with officials from 21 countries in London on Jan. 22 at the one-day conference aimed to seal cracks in the often-divided coalition against the extremist group, which controls a large swath of Syria and Iraq.
On fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Hammond said the 60-member international coalition was focusing on addressing the “underlying narrative” of ISIL, targeting its financing, disrupting the flow of foreign fighters, and dealing with the humanitarian crisis that has resulted from their operations.
“In each case, we talked about what more we can do together to achieve our objectives in these areas,” he said.
Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi said his government sought and was glad to get more commitment in supporting Baghdad’s efforts against the extremist group that has torn through the country.
Kerry thanked al-Abadi for his “forceful” and “important” leadership and said ISIL was not a Syrian or Iraqi problem, but a global one.
“It demands a coordinated, comprehensive and enduring global response,” Kerry added.
The U.S.-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against ISIL positions for nearly five months. Kerry said the strikes were effective in stopping ISIL’s advance and even forcing a pushback in some regions.
Speaking during the news conference, Kerry said Iraq and its allies have made significant gains in battling ISIL, killing thousands of fighters and 50 percent of the group’s top commanders.
But the top U.S. diplomat said the international coalition “can do better” at stopping the militant group’s flow of funds and foreign fighters and the reach of its extremist ideas, which have been cited by terrorists, including the gunman who killed four hostages at a kosher grocery in Paris this month.