Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday implied that Turkey could release Islamic State prisoners into Europe as retaliation for new sanctions from the European Union over Turkey’s unauthorized drilling for gas off the Cyprus coast.
“You should revise your stance toward Turkey, which at the moment holds so many IS members in prison and at the same time controls those in Syria,” Erdogan told reporters. “These gates will open and these IS members who have started to be sent to you will continue to be sent.”
“Then you can take care of your own problem,” the Turkish president added.
On Monday, E.U. foreign ministers settled on a system “to sanction individuals or entities responsible for, or involved in, unauthorized drilling activities of hydrocarbons.” The sanctions would involve travel bans and freezing the assets of companies and individuals engaging in drilling near E.U. member Cyprus, which Turkey does not recognize as independent.
Erdogan also said Turkey will continue to send captured foreign Islamic State terrorists back to their countries of origin even if those countries refused to reabsorb them, saying Turkey is not a “hotel” for ISIS militants. About 1,200 Islamic State members are imprisoned in Turkey, the country said.
One suspected ISIS fighter who is also a U.S. citizen is reportedly stuck in a militarized buffer zone between the Turkish and Greek border after Turkey deported him and Greece refused him entry.
“Whether they are stuck there at the border it doesn’t concern us. We will continue to send them. Whether they take them or not, it is not our concern,” the Turkish president said.
Erdogan is scheduled to hold talks with President Trump Wednesday at the White House, a meeting that has sparked some bipartisan criticism.