“Fine, you take’em. And make no mistake, there’s a lot more where that came from.”
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey on Monday deported citizens of the United States and Denmark who fought for the Islamic State and made plans to expel other foreign nationals as the government began a new push to send back captured foreign fighters to their home countries, a Turkish official said.
The move comes just over a week after the Turkish interior minister said Turkey was not a “hotel” for ISIS fighters and criticized Western nations for their reluctance to take back citizens who had joined the ranks of the extremist militant group as it sought to establish a “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.
The US did not immediately comment on Ankara’s announcement. A Greek official who spoke on condition of anonymity pending a public announcement said Turkey deported the US citizen to Greece, which rejected him, leaving him in a heavily militarized no man’s land between the two borders. It was unclear why he was deported to Greece.
The US has not yet publicly commented on this announcement.
I’m assuming it’s actually the UN protected buffer zone on Cyprus, both relic of Turkish invasion and subject of new tensions with its neighbors.
It was not clear whether the Turkish detention had come before or after the apparent attempt to expel the suspect via Greece.
The spokeswoman gave no further details but the timing of the statement issued in the early afternoon in Washington suggested that after expulsion to Greece failed the man had been taken into Turkish custody.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is due to visit Washington on Wednesday when he is expected to discuss the fate of foreign fighters caught in Isis ranks.
On Monday Turkey said it had begun deporting foreign members of Isis held in custody, in a policy that risks diplomatic fallout with its European allies.
The latest source of tension between the NATO allies is Turkey’s dispatch of drill ships, escorted by warships, into Cypriot waters.
Greece is treaty-bound to defend Cyprus’s territorial integrity, and Turkish encroachment on the island republic’s territory is a source of growing anxiety for Athens.
Though only Cyprus’s Greek-led government is internationally recognized, Turkey has occupied the northern half of the island for 45 years, and claims the right to drill for oil in Cyprus’s waters, a stance that has led to condemnation from both the EU and the U.S.
“We want peace in the region. We do not wish any kind of conflict. But at the same time, in order to maintain the status quo as it is, we are taking a very confident and resolute position against Turkish behavior,” Panagiotopoulos told VICE News. “There is no other way I’m afraid.”
Tasked with dampening the growing tensions within the NATO alliance and managing Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Russia, American diplomats in the region find themselves overseeing a delicate balancing act.
But Erdoğan’s not making it easy. His recent purchase of advanced Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles saw Turkey expelled from the F-35 fighter jet program. Erdoğan, however, appears unfazed by NATO’s disciplinary actions and has expressed interest in purchasing the alternative Russian SU-57 jet. He’s also continued his threats to invade Northeast Syria, where U.S. troops are stationed alongside fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Within this context, the growing defense relationship between the United States and Greece, manifest in the donation of equipment, enhanced training, and increasing use of strategically attractive facilities like the combined air and naval base at Souda Bay in Crete, can be interpreted as a potential fallback option in case America’s relationship with Turkey is damaged beyond repair.