Germany says repatriation of Syria jihadists ‘extremely difficult’

The German foreign minister said it would be "extremely difficult" to organise the repatriation of European nationals in Syria who had joined the Islamic State group, in response to a call by US President Donald Trump.

Germany says repatriation of Syria jihadists 'extremely difficult'
Maas speaking on TV on Sunday evening. Photo: DPA

A return could only be possible if “we can guarantee that these people can be immediately sent here to appear in court and that they will be detained,” Heiko Maas told ARD television late Sunday.

For this, “we need judicial information, and this is not yet the case,” he
said. Under such conditions a repatriation would be “extremely difficult to

SEE ALSO: German Interior Minister rules out deportations to Syria

Berlin wants to “consult with France and Britain…over how to proceed,”
he said.

“We must be able to ensure that prosecution is possible,” Defence Minister
Ursula von der Leyen told Bild daily.

Underlining the difficulties however of putting the ex-fighters on trial,
the minister noted that there is “no government in Syria with which we have a sensible relationship”.

SEE ALSO: More women soldiers and less equipment: A look at Germany's army in numbers

The subject is to be raised on Monday at a meeting of European foreign ministers called to discuss among other issues “the situation in Syria, in
particular the recent developments on the ground,” according to an agenda for the talks.

Trump on Sunday called on his European allies to take back alleged
jihadists captured in Syria.

IS imposed a self-declared caliphate across parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq from 2014, but has since lost all of it except a tiny patch of less than half a square kilometre near the Iraqi border.

After years of fighting IS, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
hold hundreds of foreigners accused of fighting for the group, and well as
related women and children.

SEE ALSO: Two suspected Syrian ex-secret service officers arrested in Germany

Syria's Kurds have repeatedly called for their countries of origin to take
them back, but these nations have been reluctant.

“The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial,” Trump said in a tweet, using another acronym for IS.

After initial reluctance, Paris appears ready to consider the return of its

In Belgium, Justice Minister Koen Geens called for a “European solution” on Sunday, calling for “calm reflection and looking at what would be the least security risks”.

SEE ALSO: 'I was a little bit naive': German woman flees IS


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Germany summons Belarus envoy over forced Ryanair landing

Germany said on Monday it had summoned the Belarusian ambassador over the forced landing of an airliner and detention of a critical journalist.

Germany summons Belarus envoy over forced Ryanair landing
A woman stands with a poster reading 'Where is Roman (Protasevich)?!' in the arrival area as passengers disembark from a Ryanair passenger plane from Athens, Greece, that was intercepted and diverted to Minsk on the same day by Belarus authorities. Photo: Petras Malukas/AFP

“The explanations of the Belarusian government for the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk are absurd and not credible,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement.

“We need clarity on what really happened on board and on the ground,” he added, saying that ambassador Denis Sidorenko was expected at his ministry Monday evening.

Maas said Berlin also expected “clarity about the wellbeing” of the detained journalist, Roman Protasevich, and his girlfriend, saying both “must
be released immediately”.

He said a senior official at the ministry, Miguel Berger, would meet with Sidorenko, while EU leaders debate “consequences” at a summit in Brussels.

The Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius carrying Protasevich was diverted while in Belarusian airspace over a supposed bomb threat.

Accompanied by a Belarusian fighter jet on the orders of strongman Alexander Lukashenko, the plane landed in Minsk where Protasevich, a
26-year-old who had been living in Lithuania, was arrested along with his Russian girlfriend.