The Paris Response: Answering Urgent Questions in the Anti-ISIS Fight

November 19, 2015

A Washington Institute Q&A

 

Experts weigh in on key questions regarding the perpetrators of the Paris attacks and the proper response, including counterterror and military measures in Syria and Iraq.

 

Why isn't Turkey curbing the flow of Syrian refugees and ISIS returnees into Europe?

 

 

Soner Cagaptay: Before the Paris attacks, Turkey was in talks with the EU to stem the flow of Syrian refugees. The attacks will raise the immediacy of that issue, with Turkey likely pledging to create a better refugee registration and hosting system. It may also agree to become a "readmission" country, allowing the EU to transfer Syrians who have entered the continent illegally to safe destinations in Turkey. In return, Brussels may yield (albeit gradually) to Ankara's longstanding demands for lifting visa restrictions on Turkish citizens traveling to Europe.

 

Post-Paris dynamics will also rally European support around Turkey's call for establishing a safe haven in northern Syria. For its part, Ankara will improve its cooperation with EU capitals to prevent the return of ISIS foreign fighters from Syria to Europe.

In the longer term, Ankara will leverage its newfound bargaining power with Brussels to jumpstart its EU accession talks. France has already signaled that it will lift its objections to unfreezing five of the thirty-five "chapters" in that process, and it will likely urge Cyprus to allow the unfreezing of another six. EU accession is one of the few remaining anchors of liberal democracy in Turkey, and rejuvenating the talks would strengthen that anchor.

Yet any such progress will depend on stemming the flow of foreign fighters to and from Syria. Several of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks had spent time in Syria after crossing over from Turkey, and many Europeans no doubt wonder about Ankara's actual commitment to addressing that issue. Moreover, the attacks will likely bolster far-right and xenophobic political parties in France and elsewhere that have made opposition to Turkish accession central to their platform. Last but not least, given the concern over Turkish jihadists in Syria, EU countries will think twice before granting Turks visa-free access.

 

 

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Soner Cagaptay