Turkey contradicts Trump on custody of all jihadists jailed in Syria

Selcan Hacaoglu and Firat Kozok

Turkey won’t take custody of all Islamic State prisoners in areas of northern Syria captured as a result of its military operation, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday, contradicting a key claim made by President Donald Trump.

With Turkey’s incursion now in its second day, it will only assume responsibility for the militants held under arrest in the “safe zone” it plans to create, Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara. If the camps or prisons housing the militants are outside the zone, Turkey is “not responsible,” he said Thursday.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks to the media during a joint news conference with Algeria's Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum, in Algiers, Algeria, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019.

Those places “will be under the responsibility of Americans and others, or the regime,” the minister said. “I can’t take the responsibility for terrorists that are not in our area.”

It wasn’t clear if there any detainees in the planned buffer, and the biggest prisoner camp lies farther south of the zone.

Turkey plans to establish a buffer 480 kilometers (298 miles) wide and about 30 kilometers deep in northern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly last month. In an Oct. 6 statement, the White House said Turkey would be “responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial Caliphate’ by the United States.”

Cavusoglu also said Turkey’s military operation will be “limited, proportionate and measured.” The aim is to “stabilize the region, bring peace and ensure the territorial integrity of Syria,” he said.