The U.S. State Department yesterday played down the tension between President Barack Obama and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on the foreign fighters issue, emphasizing the two countries' increasing cooperation against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
Asked about Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu's comparison of the Turkish-Syrian border with the U.S.-Mexican border and comments on the low apprehension rates of illegal immigrants in the latter case, State Department's Spokesman Jeff Rathke refused to give a specific reaction, but said more progress was needed on stemming the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria.
"Turkey has already taken additional steps. We've worked closely with them, and again, we think there is more that can be done by all members of the coalition to stop the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. Turkey does have the will to join with us in the fight against ISIL," he said.
Responding to President Obama's criticism of Turkey for not fully ramping up the capacity needed to prevent the flow of foreign fighters to Syria, Çavuşoğlu said on Wednesday that Turkey has deported over 1,300 people, while despite all security measures, 85 percent of illegal attempts to cross from Mexico to U.S. are successful. On Tuesday, Obama asked for better cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey, flustering Turkish officials whose Justice and Development Party (AK Party) lost the majority in Parliament following the general elections on Sunday.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other ally countries' top diplomats thanked Turkey at every opportunity for its efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters, Çavuşoğlu said, and added that Turkey shares a 911-kilometer border with war-torn Syria. "Unfortunately, despite all measures, some cross the border," Çavuşoğlu said, noting that he compared the situation to the U.S's border with Mexico at a meeting with Kerry.
Statistics compiled by the Prime Ministry support the long-standing Turkish stance that Turkey had been using its full capacity to block the flow of foreign fighters trying to enter Syria. According to the figures, more than 1,350 people have been deported and Turkey has issued exclusion orders for some 13,500 others from 98 countries. Turkey captured over 50,000 people who were trying to cross the borders illegally in 2013, 71,000 in 2014 and 23,500 in the first five months of this year.