European ministers warn of ISIS threat amid Turkish incursion
Breakouts from Kurdish-controlled prisons under Turkish bombardment have fuelled fears the group could threaten Europe again
Foreign ministers from across the European Union warned about the danger of a resurgent ISIS on Monday amid the ongoing Turkish military campaign against Kurdish forces in Syria.
The ministers gathered in Luxembourg for a meeting chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.
In a joint statement, the 28-member bloc condemned the offensive, saying it “seriously undermines the stability and the security of the whole region”.
“It also significantly undermines the progress achieved so far by the Global Coalition to defeat Da’esh,” it said.
The Turkish incursion into territory controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) sparked immediate fears that it could lead to a resurgence of ISIS. The group was largely defeated by the SDF, with the support of special forces from the US and Europe.
The offensive, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said “risks allowing the reappearance” of the extremist group.
“It’s already started,” he said.
On Sunday, Kurdish authorities said that nearly 800 prisoners with close ties to the group escaped from a camp in Ain Issa in northern Syria amid Turkish bombing.
Last week, a spokesman for the SDF said five ISIS fighters escaped from a prison in the city of Qamishli.
The announcement came as ISIS claimed responsibility for a major car-bombing which killed three people in the city.
As many as 11,000 captured ISIS fighters were being detained by the Kurds in northern Syria when the Turkish attacks began. Some 2,000 of that number are foreign fighters who travelled to join the group in Syria from 50 countries including Belgium, the UK, France and Germany.
European governments have been reluctant to repatriate citizens that travelled to Syria fearing a public backlash, difficulties in putting fighters on trial, and risks of renewed attacks from militants on home soil.
Before Turkey began its offensive last week, European nations had been assessing how to create a mechanism that could ultimately see foreign fighters moved from Syria to face trial in Iraq for war crimes.
Mr Le Drian on Monday called on the US to convene a meeting of the global coalition to defeat ISIS.
A defiant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would not back down from its offensive against Kurdish fighters in north-east Syria “no matter what anyone says”.
“Our battle will continue until ultimate victory is achieved," Mr Erdogan said.
Updated: October 14, 2019 06:44 PM