US President Barack Obama on Wednesday led the UN Security Council in approving a resolution demanding that countries take action to stem the flow of foreign jihadists to Iraq and Syria.
The resolution unanimously approved by the 15-member council requires all nations to adopt laws that would make it a serious crime for their nationals to join jihadist groups such as Islamic State (IS) and Al-Nusra Front.
Obama described the measure as “historic” at a special session of the Council, only the sixth time in UN history that the top world body was convening at the level of heads of state.
Obama however cautioned that “resolutions alone will not be enough” and urged governments to work towards choking off the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria “not just in the days ahead, but for years to come.”
The US-drafted resolution demands that governments take action against nationals who travel or make plans to travel to a country to join jihadist groups and also makes it illegal to collect funds for recruitment.
About 15,000 foreign fighters from 80 countries have joined the ranks of fighters in Syria, according to US intelligence estimates. The call for action against foreign militants is fueled by fears that new terror networks will emerge from the Syria-Iraq front, much in the same way that the September 11, 2001 attacks were linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
The binding resolution falls under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which means the measures could be enforced by economic sanctions or military force.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country is considered the main transit point for foreign fighters to Syria, said the campaign to stem the flow of foreign jihadists must start in “source countries”.
Turkey has drawn up a no-entry list of 6,300 foreign nationals and has deported 1,000 foreigners involved in fighting in Syria, he said.
“We can stop this flow of foreign terrorist fighters, but only if our friends show a spirit of cooperation as well,” he said.
Turkey has been trading barbs with France in recent days after a series of blunders saw three suspected French jihadists waltz out of a French airport after being transferred from Turkish custody.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said that at least 500 British citizens had joined jihadist ranks in a conflict that “is sucking in our own young people, from modern, prosperous societies.”
“Right now, thousands of misguided people from around the world are joining terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq because they claim Islam is under threat and because they are excited at the prospect of battle,” said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
“It’s hard to imagine that citizens of a pluralist democracy could have succumbed to such delusions — yet clearly they have,” said Abbott, whose country has 60 nationals fighting in IS ranks and 100 others supporting them.
Experts say the overwhelming majority of foreign fighters now in Syria and Iraq are from the Middle East and Arab countries, with Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Morocco topping the list.
In his remarks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed to the failure to solve the Israeli-Palestinian question as “one of the primary reasons why terrorists receive moral support and recruit new members within their ranks.”
The flow of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq is the biggest such mobilization since the Afghan war of the 1980s, according to the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalisation. SAPA