Dutch foreign minister dismisses report on Turkey’s links to ISIS in Syria

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok on Wednesday said his government would not push for a NATO investigation into Turkey’s possible links to the Islamic State (ISIS), Kurdistan24 news site reported.

The minister in a written statement answered the questions of Raymond de Roon, a Dutch lawmaker of the Party for Freedom (PVV), who had asked the government to clarify whether Turkey had trained, recruited and armed former ISIS members.

“Turkey is and remains an important partner in the fight against ISIS, including as a member of the anti-ISIS coalition. Turkey has been seriously affected by ISIS terrorism and is taking action against this,” Blok stated. 

De Roon’s questions was based on a recent report prepared by the pro-Kurdish Rojava Information Centre (RIC), which said that 40 former Islamic State members had joined Turkish-backed groups in northwestern Syrian city of Afrin.

Afrin was seized in 2018 by Turkish military and allied Free Syrian Army militias after a two-month-long operation, codenamed Operation Olive Branch, that aimed at dislodging the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the Kurdish city.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been engaged in a three-decade conflict with Turkish armed forces for greater autonomy in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast. Ankara considers both Kurdish groups to be terrorist organisations.

The Dutch Foreign Minister, in his written answer, noted that “evolving dynamics of the battlefield in Syria” meant some fighters could have joined “for pragmatic or financial reasons,” armed groups that “previously were their ideological opponents”, according to Kurdistan24.

The minister also affirmed that the Dutch government would not question Turkey’s NATO membership. 

“Turkey is and remains an important NATO ally in a difficult and restless region. The NATO-membership of Turkey is therefore in the interest of Dutch and European security,” the Minister wrote.

Blok also stated that the Dutch authorities had no information on Islamic State veterans working with Turkish intelligence services.