Intel sharing with Turkey improves as Europe realizes extent of problem, envoy says
PARIS – Anadolu Agency
AA PhotoIntelligence cooperation between Ankara and European countries has recently improved, leading Turkey to expel over 1,000 over suspected jihadist links, Turkey’s Paris envoy has said amid a heated debate on how to maintain security in Europe after last month’s jihadist attacks.
Speaking during an interview with Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency, Hakkı Akil, Ankara’s top diplomat in France, said cooperation between Turkey and France, as well as other European countries, has increased following source countries’ alarm over the threat.
“Unfortunately, this cooperation did not proceed healthily at the beginning, but more concrete steps have been taken,” he said.
“We can say cooperation is going better as source countries have realized the seriousness of the issue.”
He echoed Turkish authorities and said Turkey could be successful in stemming the flow of would-be jihadists to Iraq and Syria if home countries provided information about the suspects, brushing off criticism against Turkey over the issue.
“I, as a Turkish citizen, cannot know which French citizen is a foreign fighter and which is not. It is impossible for my border police at airports, or other entrance points, to know this. We can only cooperate if source countries provide information,” he said.
“There is no problem with us in terms of cooperation, but source countries should exert more efforts on the issue and have more control on the situation at their borders.”
Akil also noted Turkey has refused the entry of nearly 40 French citizens over suspected links with Islamists in the Middle East.
According to figures provided by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Feb. 4, a total of 9,915 people have been banned from entering Turkey, with 1,065 people being expelled by security officials over suspected terror links.
Çavuşoğlu’s words came amid security questions lingering over a man who attacked French police a week after being refused entry by Turkey.
A former criminal who had been blocked by French and Turkish police from traveling along a route used by jihadi fighters attacked three French soldiers with a knife outside of a Jewish community center in southern France on Feb. 3.
France’s counterterrorism agency last week flagged the suspect, Moussa Coulibaly, to Turkish authorities before he flew on Jan. 28 on a one-way ticket to Turkey, a transit point for jihadists from Europe to join Islamic extremist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq, security officials said.
The incident pointed to improved coordination between French and Turkish authorities in combatting the movement of would-be jihadists, while also raising speculations that those who do not make it to Iraq and Syria might try to wreak violence at home.
After his return, French authorities were unable to turn up enough evidence against Coulibaly to open a legal case against him. Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office that handles terrorism cases, said Coulibaly had previously been convicted six times on charges including theft, violence, illegal drug use and insulting police – but not terrorism.