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Germany fears return of European" jihadists" in Syria

Berlin,(ST)-German interior minister Hans Peter Friedrich wants the EU to bar Europeans "jihadists from returning

Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German interior minister, will raise the issue at a meeting of EU governments next month, according to the Guardian.

Up to 700 Europeans are fighting the Syrian government  in Syria mainly as militant "Islamists", the German government has said, warning that the militants could return as "homegrown terrorists" and calling for a controversial new policy that would temporarily bar them from re-entering Europe.

In the first disclosures of western intelligence from an EU government about Europeans fighting in Syria, senior officials in Berlin said they knew of up to 40 people who had left Germany for the battlefields since last summer. Most of them had German passports.

While German security services monitor the situation closely – the German interior ministry has banned three Salafist   organizations in the past year – the fighters could not be stopped from leaving Germany because it could not be proved that they were going to Syria, the officials said. Their passports could be confiscated, but frequently it was possible to travel to the Syrian border simply using an ID card.

"You can't mark their ID cards Jihadist or Salafist," a senior official said.

The interior ministry is worried that the fighters will return to Germany where they could operate as "homegrown terrorists" and is pushing for pan-European action to diminish that risk. The chances of success, however, look limited.

Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German interior minister, will raise the issue at a meeting of EU governments next month, calling for a two-year re-entry ban to the EU for the suspected Islamists. However, it may be difficult legally to keep them out as most of them carry passports from EU countries, many will often have families in the countries concerned and may have had jobs and entitlements in the EU.

Altogether there were 400-700 Europeans fighting in the opposition in Syria, around 10% of up to 6,000 foreign militants apparently fighting the Syrian government.

In addition to the Syrian "fighters", up to 60 militants had also left Germany for Egypt, officials said. The fighters had been traced to training camps in Somalia where they were taught to use explosives and car bombs, officials said. "Most have joined the "Islamists". The dangers are growing for us," said the senior government figure. 

A year-long survey by King's College London of more than 200 martyrdom posts on jihadist-linked websites and hundreds of Arab and western press reports found last month that up to 600 individuals from 14 countries including the UK, Austria, Spain, Sweden and Germany had taken part in the conflict since it began more than two years ago.

The largest contingent, the study found, came from the UK, with estimates of fighters running between 28 and 134. Based on their populations, the figures for Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland –with about 200 fighters between them – made these countries the most significant, said the lead researcher, Professor Peter Neumann from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King's College.European fighters made up to between 7% and 11% of the foreign contingent in Syria, which ranged between 2,000 and 5,500 people. The researchers also said there were likely to be at least 110 named Europeans engaged in fighting currently.

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Russia urges UN to hold global conference on Syria – Lavrov

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called for an international conference on Syria under the aegis of the United Nations, Voice of Russia’s Polina Chernitsa reports.

The announcement came today after the minister’s meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,according to Voice of Russia, Interfax.

 

Ban Ki-moon hopes conference on Syria will be held shortly

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that he expected the international conference on Syria to be convened as soon as possible.

"I hope that we will succeed in convening the international conference on Syria in the short term and in bringing all sides to negotiate," Ban Ki-moon said at a news conference on the results of the talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Ban Ki-moon said that the crisis in Syria  was the main topic of the talks with Lavrov.

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Russia, South Africa for Coordinating Stances on Crisis in Syria, Says Putin

MOSCOW,(ST) - " Moscow will continue its efforts to solve the crisis in Syria as soon as possible away from any foreign intervention, "underscored Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin made the statement at a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma on Thursday  in the Russian Black sea resort of Sochi.

Russia Today website quoted Putin as saying" We want to work for halting the violence as soon as possible and we will support Syria’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity".

" Russia and South Africa have agreed to continue coordinating their stances regarding the Syrian issue." Putin emphasized.

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Moscow insists that Syrian neighbors participate in international conference on Syria

SOCHI, (ST) - Moscow insists that Iran, Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries be invited to an international conference on Syria, which however is not going to be held at the summit level.

"Prior to discussing prospects for a convening a conference, it’s necessary to make sure that all parties will be present at it. The (Syrian) government has selected its delegation for negotiations. The opposition is going to meet next week,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists on Thursday. He explained that the Syrian opposition was expected to meet in several places because it did not have “a single umbrella”.

"The most important thing is to get the composition of the negotiating team from them,” Lavrov said.

 “After that, we are going to determine the rest of the participants who will not be only from the Syrian side. We are convinced that it’s necessary to use the list of participants in the Geneva conference held last June. Besides, Syria’s neighbors, including Iran, should also be invited,” Lavrov emphasized.

"If we are going to do serious work, it’s necessary to ensure the participation of all the key influential external players and give up ideological and geopolitical predilections,” Lavrov emphasized.

Asked to comment on the format of the international conference on Syria, Lavrov replied that it would be decided later but said that the gathering was unlikely to take place at the summit level.

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China, Italy, Iran Urge Political Solution to Crisis in Syria

CAPITALS- China has reiterated that the only realistic way for addressing the Syrian issue is to seek a political solution, according to the Chinese News Agency Xinhua.

The agency quoted the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei as saying on Thursday that China has paid high attention to the development of the situation in Syria and played a constructive role in resolving the issue politically.

"China believed that the future destiny of Syria should be decided by the Syrian people themselves," he said.

"The pressing problem is to urge all relevant sides to cease fire and stop violence as soon as possible and start the political transition based on the communique of the Geneva foreign ministers' meeting of the Action Group," he said.

"Any action taken by the international community, including the UN General Assembly, should be conducive to realizing the above goals while observing the principles of the UN Charter and basic norms governing the international relations," he added.

According to Hong, relevant countries recently tabled a draft resolution to the 67th UN General Assembly. "As with a number of UN member states, China showed serious concern over part of the contents of the draft resolution and thus demanded sponsor countries to take into full consideration the viewpoints of all relevant sides and not forcibly push forward the vote in order not to hamper a political solution," he said.

As the sponsor countries had forcibly pushed forward the vote without fully communicating with all sides, China voted to oppose the draft resolution, he said.

He stressed that China sought no self-interest on the Syrian issue and had no intention to take sides.

"Should any solution by widely accepted by relevant sides in Syria, China would take a positive and open attitude toward it," he said.

"We are willing to make joint efforts with the international community, including the Arab countries, to persist in the direction of political solution so as to solve the crisis in Syria with a fair, peaceful and proper manner," he said.

The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution Wednesday, calling for a political transition in Syria. The resolution is not legally binding.

In the same context, Italy also called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria.

The Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino was quoted by the Italian News Agency AKI as saying in Rome that the diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria is the only way out and it must be adopted.

"There is a chance to solve the crisis diplomatically through holding Geneva Conference 2," she said.

In Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Ministry stressed that the unbinding UN resolution adopted against Syria yesterday, doesn't contribute to solving the crisis in the country, but it will lead to further extremism among the armed terrorist groups which will commit more crimes against the Syrian people. It will also undermine all efforts aiming at attaining a political solution that ends the crisis.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqji said in a statement that the "UN resolution was issued within certain circumstances in which Syria and the entire region are in need for security and stability much more than any time before."    

H. Mustafa