Kurdish leader calls on Europe to get tough with Turkey - Reuters

The European Union could face a wave of returning Islamic State (ISIS) fighters from Syria unless it gets much tougher with Turkey, including breaking off any accession or trade talks, Reuters quoted a senior leader of the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria as saying on Friday.

Turkey launched a military incursion into Kurdish-controlled territories in northern Syria last month, after U.S. President Donald Trump paved the way for Turkish offensive by deciding to pull out American troops in the region.

The Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey sees as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), has been the dominating force in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has been the backbone of U.S. led coalition fighting against ISIS in Syria.

Turkey’s offensive has raised concerns in Europe over a possible ISIS resurgence as SDF has withdrawn 30 km south from territories along the Turkish border as a result of two separate deals Turkey made with the United States and Russia. 

Ilham Ahmed, a Kurdish political leader and co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) executive, said in an interview with Reuters that the EU should get tough with Turkey or it would soon face a wave of Islamic State militants arriving in Europe.

“The threat is very big due to the arbitrary way in which the United States has withdrawn. This has allowed many (Islamic State) members to escape and they will make their way back to their countries to continue their terrorist activities,” Ahmed said. “This poses a big threat to Britain and to Europe in general.” 

The politician called on Europe to send 2,000 troops to secure the Syrian-Turkish border and prevent fighters crossing, and to cease all arms sales to Turkey, Reuters said.

Turkey had become a radical Islamist state, Ahmed said, adding that the EU should cut off accession talks with Turkey and scrap any trade deals.

Turkey denies accusations that its offensive might lead to an ISIS resurgence and says that ISIS prisoners in formerly Kurdish-controlled areas will remain in detention.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Friday that Turkey would start repatriating ISIS fighters in detention to their countries of origin in Europe. 

Turkey was named an official EU candidate country in 1999, and negotiations for full membership started in 2005. In March, the European Parliament called for the suspension of Turkey’s accession talks, citing violations of human rights and the rule of law.