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Saudi Arabia, US urge Western nations to repatriate citizens among Daesh fighters in Syria

June 8, 2023 at 7:27 pm

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhanbir (C) in Cape Town, South Africa on June 2, 2023. [BRICS / Handout – Anadolu Agency]

Saudi Arabia and the United States have called on Western governments to repatriate their citizens who are among the captured Daesh fighters detained in north-east Syria.

At a meeting of the international anti-Daesh coalition in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, today, the Kingdom’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, stated that it is “disheartening and absolutely unacceptable” that some wealthy countries have not yet returned their nationals who remain stranded in prisons and camps in north-east Syria.

“To those countries, you must step up, you must take your responsibility”, he stressed, referring especially to many Western nations which have either refused to or delayed efforts to repatriate their citizens over national security concerns.

Since the territorial and military defeat of the Daesh terror group in 2019, thousands of the group’s captured fighters have been detained in prisons, while tens of thousands of surviving and deceased fighters’ relatives have been kept in camps.

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Those facilities in north-east Syria are run by the Kurdish militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and its regional administration and the vast majority of the inhabitants are women and children.

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who was also present at the conference, echoed bin Farhan’s comments by insisting that “repatriation is critical” to reduce the population of the detained people in the sprawling camps such as Al Hol, where conditions continue to deteriorate and the growth of extremism is cited to be a significant risk.

“Failure to repatriate foreign fighters risks that they may again take up arms”, he told Washington’s coalition partners, while pledging $148.7 million for stabilisation efforts for Iraq and Syria.

Blinken also praised countries, such as Canada, which have recently been accelerating their repatriation efforts, and cited them as examples to be followed by other Western nations that are falling behind.

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