Turkish FM says 600 Turkish nationals joined jihadists, more than 100 killed
More than 100 of the 600 Turkish citizens who have gone to fight for jihadist groups such as ISIL have been killed, FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu says. AFP PhotoMore than 100 of the 600 Turkish citizens that have gone to fight for jihadist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have perished in battle, according to intelligence estimates, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said late Nov. 24.
Some 7,000 foreigners have been banned from entering Turkey and 1,100 people were deported on suspicions that they may join jihadist groups, the minister said in reply to questions by lawmakers in Parliament during budget discussions.
The foreign minister said it was unfair to expect Turkey, which has a 1,000-kilometer-long border with Syria and Iraq, to tackle alone the problem of foreign fighters crossing through Turkish territory. He asked Western countries to share more intelligence with Turkey on suspected militants so that Turkish authorities can stop them from entering the country.
Turkey has been subjected to criticism that it has turned a blind eye to extremists using its territory to cross into Syria. Since 2013, Ankara has stepped up its efforts to tackle the crossings of foreign fighters through its territory, particularly at airports.
Foreign fighters from Western countries mainly come from Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium to fight with al-Qaeda-linked groups like the al-Nusra Front and ISIL.
European countries, for their part, argue that they cannot arrest suspected fighters departing from their territory because they do not have concrete evidence that these people are going to join the Syrian civil war, and they cannot restrict their citizens’ freedom of movement.
In September, a member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Atilla Kart, claimed that at least 16 people from his constituency of Konya, in central Turkey, had traveled to a recruiting center at Turkey’s border with Syria where they met up with other families, some with children. They were then smuggled across the border in small groups, Kart said.
He said the information was based on some family members of the 16 and on security officials who confirmed that the group had traveled to the border.
Minister discusses Cyprus case with US ambassador
Meanwhile, recent negotiations over Cyprus, the Ukraine conflict and the 1915 mass massacres of Anatolian Armenians were discussed during U.S. Ambassador to Ankara John Bass’ courtesy call to the Turkish foreign minister yesterday, diplomatic sources said.
Çavuşoğlu explained Turkey’s sensitivity about the 1915 incidents, and said that if the issue became a topic on Washington’s agenda, it could negatively affect bilateral relations, the sources said.