Turkey plays the Daesh card over potential EU sanctions

A Syrian youth throws a stone toward a Turkish military vehicle during an army patrol near the town of Darbasiyah, Syria, on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2019

Turkey plays the Daesh card over potential EU sanctions

  • Ankara can stop the accession negotiations suddenly, EU should be careful, threatens Erdogan

ANKARA: With Turkey beginning the deportation process of Daesh captives held in its prisons back to Europe on Monday, the issue is brought back to the bilateral agenda between Ankara and EU, whose relations have been strained since the recent military incursion in northern Syria.  The policy of deportation is likely to result in a new diplomatic fault line with Ankara’s allies in Europe.
On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan weaponized Daesh and the refugee issue again over the draft plans in Brussels to sanction Turkey over its drilling activities in the Mediterranean.
Erdogan implicitly threatened to release all Daesh prisoners it holds and send them back to Europe.
“Beware EU, we have 4 million refugees, we have Daesh terrorists in custody in Turkey and Syria. We can even stop the accession negotiations suddenly. EU should be careful,” he warned, adding: “Some countries have started panicking after we began the repatriation process of foreign Daesh terrorists. Turkey has been worrying about this issue for years, let others worry now.”
The EU’s sanction package intends “to sanction individuals or entities responsible for, or involved in, unauthorized drilling activities of hydrocarbons.”
The deportation wave from Turkey began with three Daesh prisoners, a German, a Dane and an American. The 28-year-old Dane citizen had been arrested on his arrival in Copenhagen, while the German ex-fighter had been also expelled. The American member has been stuck in no-man’s land between Turkish and Greek borders since Monday as Greek authorities refused him entry.
Dozens of others who fought in the militant group are also expected to be deported in the coming days. Among them are French, German and Irish ex-fighters.
The fate of foreign fighters from Daesh has been a controversial issue since the defeat of the group in Syria and Iraq. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called for further international cooperation to resolve the issues related to foreign fighters.
Turkey has some 2,500 militants in its prisons. According to international standards, Ankara should repatriate Daesh members who were seized in Turkish territories, while those who were captured in Syria in territories beyond Assad control pose judicial problems.
However, Ankara put the blame on European countries of being too slow to reclaim their citizens who had joined Daesh.

FASTFACTS

• According to international standards, Ankara should repatriate Daesh members who were seized in Turkish territories, while those who were captured in Syria in territories beyond Assad control pose judicial problems. 

• The deportation process marks another rupture in Brussels-Ankara relations.

Although some European countries like Germany, Denmark and the UK have stripped citizenship from their nationals who joined Daesh to prevent their return, Ankara is determined to send even those Daesh suspects who have had their citizenships revoked.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu recently said that “Turkey was not a hotel for foreign jihadis” even if they are legally stateless.
Ankara and Paris have strict bilateral protocols for deportation procedures, which allows the French authorities to repatriate terrorists.
However, Nihat Ali Ozcan, a retired major now serving as a security analyst at Ankara-based think tank TEPAV, said: “It is usually challenging to prove in a trial that Daesh members committed any crimes because convictions do not usually have supporting evidence.”
The average sentence for fighters returning to European countries has been about five years of imprisonment, which generates serious domestic security threats if the returned European nationals cannot go through an efficient rehabilitation process.

The irony of Turkey’s partial invasion of northeastern Syria is that Ankara now finds itself in the same situation as the very Syrian Kurdish YPG militia that it has been fighting.

Paul T. Levin, Director of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies

In recent weeks, Turkey arrested many people close to the former Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who recently died during a US raid.
Erdogan is expected to discuss the fate of Daesh fighters during his meeting with his US counterpart Donald Trump in Washington on Wednesday.
The deportation process marks another rupture in Brussels-Ankara relations as last month some European countries launched an arms sales embargo to Turkey over its military incursion into northern Syria.
“The irony of Turkey’s partial invasion of northeastern Syria is that Turkey now finds itself in the same situation as the very Syrian Kurdish YPG militia that it has been fighting. Now both are stuck with a number of Daesh fighters and their families in custody, calling for Europe and countries elsewhere to take their citizens back,” Paul T. Levin, director of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies, told Arab News.
Levin said Turkey has an understandable concern over the refusal of European states to take responsibility for “their” Daesh fighters.
“Since these countries have not been willing to do much to help either Turkey or, more acutely, the YPG, there is a legitimate need to press the issue. And Turkey has some support in international law to demand that sender states take their citizens back,” he said.
Levin added that it is also especially problematic that the threat to send Daesh fighters to Europe comes as a response to EU sanctions against Turkey on an entirely separate issue.
“It suggests that he may be less interested in a joint solution to the problem of captured Daesh fighters than in being able to use them as leverage in foreign policy disputes,” he said.


Stranded Lebanese desperate to rebuild after blast

Updated 52 min 23 sec ago

Stranded Lebanese desperate to rebuild after blast

  • The blast wrecked thousands of homes and businesses in large parts of the capital
  • International humanitarian aid has poured into the Mediterranean city of some 2 million people

BEIRUT: Sitting amid the debris, Lebanese on Wednesday expressed their frustration at the state for abandoning them in their desperate efforts to rebuild after last week’s catastrophic Beirut port explosion compounded a dire financial crisis.
Lebanon has been plunged into further political uncertainty after the government resigned this week over the Aug. 4 blast that killed at least 171 people, injured some 6,000 and wrecked homes and businesses in large parts of the capital.
International humanitarian aid has poured into the Mediterranean city of some 2 million people and Germany’s foreign minister arrived in Beirut on Wednesday in the latest visit by a foreign dignitary.
But residents said they needed practical help now.
“Who knows what will happen. How will we get back to business,” said Antoinne Matta, 74, whose safe and lock store was heavily damaged by the blast. Five employees were wounded.
“We in Lebanon are used to the government not doing anything.”
Unrest has erupted with Lebanese calling for the wholesale removal of what they see as a corrupt ruling class they brand as responsible for the country’s woes, including an economic meltdown that has ravaged the currency, paralyzed banks and sent prices soaring.
Officials have said the blast could have caused losses of $15 billion, a bill Lebanon cannot pay, given the depths of the financial crisis that has seen people frozen out of their savings accounts since October amid dollar scarcity.
The central bank has instructed local banks to extend exception interest-free dollar loans to individuals and businesses for essential repairs, and that it would in turn provide those financial institutions with the funding.

‘Everything is gone’
Bandali Gharabi, whose photo studio was destroyed, said that so far local authorities had only give him a compensation sheet to fill out. He does not know if the bank will provide financial assistance because he already has a car loan.
“Everything is gone,” he said. “I just want someone to rebuild my shop.”
President Michel Aoun has promised a swift and transparent investigation into the blast at a warehouse where authorities say more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored for years without safety measures. He has said the probe would look into whether it was negligence, an accident or external factors.
Reuters reported that Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab were warned in July about the warehoused ammonium nitrate, according to documents and senior security sources.
The presidency did not respond to requests for comment about the warning letter.
Diab, when announcing his cabinet’s resignation, blamed endemic graft for the explosion, which was the biggest in Beirut’s history.
The World Bank Group said last week it would work with Lebanon’s partners to mobilize public and private financing for reconstruction and recovery. An emergency donor conference on Sunday raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief.
Volunteers and construction workers with bulldozers were still clearing wreckage from neighborhoods more than a week after the blast. Rows of destroyed cars were still parked in front of damaged stores and demolished buildings.
Nagy Massoud, 70, was sitting on the balcony when the blast gutted his apartment. He was saved by a wooden door that protected him from flying debris. A stove injured his wife.
His pension is frozen in a bank account he cannot access due to capital controls prompted by the economic crisis.
“Where is the government,” he said, looking around his shattered apartment.