Turkish PM refuses to take blame on foreign fighter flow

Turkish PM refuses to take blame on foreign fighter flow

Turkish PM refuses to take blame on foreign fighter flow

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R), and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu address the media during a joint press conference after a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Jan. 12, 2015. AP Photo

Turkey’s prime minister has refused to heed Western demands to “do more” to stem the flow of foreign fighters joining Islamic insurgents fighting in Iraq and Syria, saying the country has already blacklisted 7,000 people and deported 2,000 more.

“If we left our borders open, it was not for the passage of terrorists. We kept the border open for children, whose fathers and mothers had died, and for innocent women to find shelter in our country,” Davutoğlu said on Jan. 12 during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

“We could have shut down the border, but then the responsibility of every child massacred by the Syrian regime’s bombs would belong to those who want us to close the borders,” he added.

Davutoğlu was again forced to answer questions about foreign jihadists’ transit to Syria through Turkey after a suspected accomplice in last week’s attacks in Paris was revealed to have traveled through Turkey to Syria before coming to attention.

Denying the accusations, the Turkish leader asserted Ankara's border policy “had” to be shaped with humanitarian needs in Syria taken into consideration, insisting that the government was doing its best based on the cooperation it receives from Western countries.

Turkey has long been criticized by the international community for its alleged tolerance of foreign fighters passing through its territory to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.

In the second half of 2014, Turkey increased its intelligence cooperation with European countries, as the former began placing a travel ban on several thousand foreign individuals.

The prime minister reiterated that Turkey welcomed 35 million tourists every year and said the authorities could not label foreigners as terrorists without proper intelligence information shared by other countries.

Acting on the names conveyed to Turkey, Ankara has blacklisted 7,000 people, including German citizens, and deported around 1,500 to 2,000 others, Davutoğlu said, stressing that the authorities first required intelligence in order to bar suspected travelers.

“We assess all intelligence we receive and we cooperate with the related country,” he said.

On the issue of Hayat Boumeddiene, the suspected female accomplice of Islamist militants behind attacks in Paris, Davutoğlu said Turkey conveyed the information it detected about her without receiving a demand from France.

He recalled that it had been learned that Boumeddiene flew to Istanbul from Madrid, before traveling to the southeastern Turkish province of Gaziantep, from where she is suspected of crossing to Syria.

“Is it possible to blame Spain on this issue? Is it possible to blame Turkey? Is Turkey’s only fault to have a border with Syria?” he asked, vowing that “Turkey is taking all measures against terrorism.”

In the same press conference, the prime minister also said Turkey expected the same sensitivity shown over the Paris attacks to also be shown for terrorist attacks that Turkey has faced, recalling the suicide attack that killed a policeman in Istanbul a day before the Charlie Hebdo attack that killed 12 people on Jan. 7, as well as the Reyhanlı bombings in 2013, when 52 people were killed in a town near the Syrian border.