Turkey’s Foreign Minister: “critical time for our region”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with his US counterpart John Kerry in Washington to discuss wide-ranging efforts to combat a slew of upheavals in the Middle East, saying it was a “critical time for our region.”
Turkey’s shared borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran have made it a vital crossroads in US-led efforts to combat the threat of Islamic State group militants as well as to search for a solution to end the four-year Syrian war.
The United States and Turkey in March began training and equipping thousands of moderate Syrian rebel forces as part of a deal signed after several months of negotiations.
But Turkey’s hesitation to take robust action against IS militants in the US-led coalition had led to strains in its ties with the United States.
Ankara, which is also hosting some two million Syrian refugees, was an “essential partner” in the efforts to combat the Islamic State group, Kerry said ahead of their talks at the US State Department.
IS forces “are under increasing strain, its leadership has been degraded, its finances have been squeezed and its hateful ideology has been discredited.”
But the top US diplomat warned that as IS had weakened, it had “become more dependent on new recruits.”
Many recruits have come from Gulf nations, but there has been alarm at the increasing numbers joining IS from Europe.
That meant countries had to redouble efforts to “persuade and prevent young people from making the fatal mistake of signing and then travelling to and trying to cross the border into Syria,” Kerry said.
Cavusoglu revealed that Turkey had placed more than 12,800 people on a list barring them entry to the country amid fears they could try to slip into either Iraq or Syria.
A further 1,300 foreign fighters had been deported, he said.
“Turkey is one of the transit countries for foreign fighters, and we have been doing our best to stop them,” Cavusoglu said.
“But the source countries should also do their best to support and to stop foreign fighters before they leave,” he argued.
“We need better cooperation, we need timely information sharing and also intelligence.”
Kerry also revealed that he planned to attend a meeting of NATO foreign ministers being hosted by Turkey and to be held in Antalya from May 13-14.