EU to discuss post-IS Syria amid tensions with Trump

EU to discuss post-IS Syria amid tensions with Trump
EU foreign affairs ministers will discuss the crisis in Syria after President Trump called on European nations to take back their foreign fighters.
2 min read
18 February, 2019
French Foreign Affairs Minister attends Foreign Affairs Council at EU headquarters in Brussels [AFP/Getty Images]
European foreign ministers are set to discuss US President Donald Trump's call for the EU to take back citizens captured as Islamic State group fighters in Syria and Iraq.

EU ministers are attending a Foreign Affairs Council at the the EU Council headquarters in Brussels on Monday to discuss international issues such as the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Venezuela and the Horn of Africa.

Regarding Syria, the foreign affairs ministers will focus on the US backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) "final battle" with IS, now severely weakened.

"The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them. The US does not want to watch as these [IS] fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go" President Trump tweeted on Saturday, calling on EU nations to take back more than 800 fighters and "put them on trial".

Germany and France have already issued strong rebuttals, saying it would be "extraordinarily difficult".

"We need information, we need investigations, all that is not in place, and as long as it isn't, I think this is extraordinarily difficult to implement," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told ARD on Sunday.

Maas affirmed the right of German nationals to repatriation, but stressed that alleged IS fighters could only come back to Germany if court proceedings could be "immediately" launched upon their return.

France also said it would not change its policy. France’s Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told France 2 on Monday. "At this stage France is not responding to [Trump’s] demands".

As the defeat of IS draws nearer and those who joined the group come out of the woodwork, many Western governments are now faced with a difficult decision.

The recent case of Shamima Begum, a 19-year-old UK citizen who ran away from home in 2015 to join the Islamic State group, has ignited fresh controversy in the UK, where many have opposed her potential return.

Trump's demand for EU citizens to be repatriated also appears to ignore his own country's lack of enthusiasm for the return of foreign fighters.

Agencies contributed to this story.