'Turkey trying to halt influx of radicals into Syria'

'Turkey trying to halt influx of radicals into Syria'

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey trying to halt influx of radicals into Syria

A Syrian rebel carries an improvised explosive device in this file photo. AFP Photo

Radical groups in Syria pose a threat to Turkey, which is doing its best to prevent crossing into Syria via Turkish territory, according to a senior Turkish diplomat.

“It’s not correct to say that no members of these radical groups have crossed through Turkey. But 35 million tourists are coming to Turkey. It’s not possible to monitor all of them. We do our best in order to prevent crossings when intelligence comes from other countries,” Deputy Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Ömer Önhon said on Dec. 6, delivering a briefing to members of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee.

Elaborating on the radical groups that have allegedly been using Turkish territory to enter Syria to fight against the regime, Önhon stressed that they also represented a “threat to Turkey.”

Ankara supports the Geneva process on Syria, but the prospects of the process should not be “vague” and “open ended,” he added.

“Neither al-Assad nor his close circle should play a role in the future of Syria,” he said, while emphasizing that the transitional government “should have full executive powers.”

A British deputy of the European Parliament, Andrew Duff, voiced “suspicion that Turkey has some agenda to support Sunni Muslims against Shiites in Syria.” He asked if Turkey made any difference in treating Sunni and Shiite Syrian refugees, and said that if there was such an agenda, it would harm Turkey’s partnership and alliance with the West.

With regard to Ankara’s recent decision to select a U.S.-sanctioned Chinese company for an anti-missile defense system deal, Duff also said Turkey had acted hastily in making the decision.

Önhon dismissed any sort of discrimination among Syrian refugees and stressed that other countries should also refrain from discrimination as well.

British lawmaker Richard Howitt, meanwhile, noted that support for Turkey’s role in the region had been decreasing of late due to diplomatic mistakes.

“I am speaking as a friend of Turkey. The language that your politicians are using will negatively affect the negotiation process with the EU,” Howitt said.