Last updated: 8 May, 2014

Belgium and allies try to halt flow of Islamist fighters to Syria

Several European countries met Thursday with officials from the United States, Turkey, Morocco, Jordan and Tunisia to discuss how to stop young Islamist fighters joining rebels in Syria.

The fear is that the young fighters become even more radicalised and return home with extensive military experience which can be put to terrorist ends, Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet said.

“It is not just a national problem, it is international, with many countries affected,” Milquet said, highlighting the presence of Al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria.

Milquet said there were no single headline-making measures to solve a problem which required slow but steady work out of the limelight.

“If we stop their departure, then we will not have the problem of returning (fighters),” her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve said, stressing the need for preventative measures.

The two ministers said it was essential to work together and share information so as to break up recruitment and funding networks channelling Islamic fighters into Syria.

Both welcomed the presence of Turkey and Jordan at the talks as they serve as transfer points for getting into Syria and along with Morocco and Tunisia also suffer from the problem of returning radicalised youths.

Milquet set up the informal ministerial group with France last year and they were then joined by Britain, the Netherlands and Spain.