11:49 GMT +323 October 2019
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    A member of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces removes a Daesh flag in the Syrian town of Tabqa. File photo

    EU States at Odds Over US Call to Take Back Jihadists From Syria

    © AFP 2019 / DELIL SOULEIMAN
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    Earlier, US President Donald Trump urged his European allies to take back over 800 terrorists captured in Syria and bring them to justice, warning that alternatively, Washington could be forced to release them.

    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has lashed out at US President Trump's demand for European nations to repatriate jihadists, saying that "it is certainly not as easy as they think in America".

    "German citizens have the right to return, but we have little ability in Syria at present to check whether German citizens are actually affected," he told reporters at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.

    READ MORE: Trump's Call to Bring EU Jihadists Home Sows Discord in Scandinavia

    Maas added that the authorities would have to check to what extent these people were involved in fighting for Daesh*, which "would result in criminal proceedings having to be opened against them".

    "These people can come to Germany only if it is ensured that they can immediately be taken into custody," he noted.

    Austrian Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, for his part, stressed that he shares the stance of France, Denmark and the UK on the matter and that "protection of our own population remains the highest priority, especially from those who are accused of serious crimes".

    Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said that the country's government has always intended to bring back children under 10 whenever possible, while others would be dealt with on a "case by case" basis.

    READ MORE: Daesh Not Defeated, US Commanders Reportedly Warned Trump Ahead of Syria Pullout

    "In general, we deem it feasible to find a pan-European solution to this problem or a coordinated solution between the states that are most affected by it," he underlined.

    French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet pointed out that "for the time being" Paris is not changing its policy, saying that "at this stage France is not responding to [Trump's] demands".

    Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto admitted that the issue is "one of the greatest challenges ahead of us for the upcoming months", but warned that "our major endeavour now should be not to allow them [jihadists] to come back to Europe".

    READ MORE: US Presence 'Creates Obstacles' to Stability, Won't Defeat Daesh — Diplomat

    Szijjarto's Slovakian colleague Miroslav Lajcak, in contrast, said that he "would certainly be in favour" of Europe taking jihadists back.

    Last Saturday, US President Donald Trump urged "Britain, France, Germany and other European allies" to take back 800 Daesh militants captured by the US and its sympathetic militias in Syria, hinting at the release of the jihadists if Washington's EU allies refuse to put them on trial.

    In a tweet, Trump said that "the US does not want to watch as these ISIS [Daesh] fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go".


    *Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other countries

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    Tags:
    jihadists, allies, authorities, citizens, EU, Daesh, Heiko Maas, Germany, United States
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