The president of Turkey on Wednesday accused the international community of doing too little to stem the flow of foreign fighters to Syria and slammed the U.N. Security Council’s inaction on some of the world’s most pressing issues.
In two separate speeches in New York, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was playing a leading role in fighting terrorism but was not being aided by the rest of the world.
“We can stop this flow of foreign terrorist fighters only if our friends and partners awaiting our cooperation show, themselves, a sort of cooperation as well,” Erdogan said.
“This is not a fight to be carried out solely by Turkey,” he added.
But Turkey, a key backer of the rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, is under scrutiny for allowing thousands of fighters to cross into Syria across its borders.
Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari reiterated the criticism later Wednesday, noting pointedly that Turkey was the “main gate for terrorists crossing into Syria and Iraq.” He said Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have turned their airports into “reception halls” for extremists before sending them illegally to Syria.
Erdogan spoke at a Security Council meeting where members unanimously approved a resolution requiring countries to prevent the recruitment and transport of foreign fighters preparing to join terrorist groups.
It was an unusual Security Council meeting chaired by President Barack Obama and attended largely by heads of state for the 15 member states.
U.S. intelligence officials estimate some 12,000 foreigners have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State group, which has many as 31,000 fighters.
Erdogan said the threat of foreign terrorist fighters starts “the moment these individuals depart from the source countries” and that countries concerned have not cooperated in a timely fashion.
Still, he said, recent information sharing by source countries helped Turkey in its effort to stem the flow. About 3,600 individuals have been included on the “no entry list” and nearly 1,000 foreigners have been deported by the Turkish government, Erdogan said.
He said Turkey sacrificed greatly, taking in more than a million Syrian refugees in addition to more than 140,000 Syrian Kurdish refugees last week alone.
“Despite our sacrifices and our expectations of solidarity, we have not received the kind of support we’ve been looking for from the international community,” he said.
Erdogan has said he would offer military help but has been vague about exactly how he intends to answer the American call to join Washington and a number of Arab states as they continue attacks on the Islamic State group that has taken over wide swaths of Syria and Iraq in a brutal assault and a bid to establish what the radical group calls a Islamic Caliphate.
Earlier in the day, in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Erdogan said the U.N. has repeatedly failed to act, citing the Syrian civil war which has killed more than 200,000 people and this summer’s Gaza War in which more than 2,000 people died.
He also criticized the U.N. for what he termed the legitimization of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi who spoke from the same podium shortly before.
He said the democratically elected President of Egypt, Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, was overthrown by a coup, and the U.N. chose to legitimize the person who conducted this coup — a reference to el-Sissi.
“We should respect the choice of the people in the ballot box. If we want to support coups…then why does the United Nations exist?” he said.
Turkey had forged a close alliance with Morsi and strongly criticized the military coup in Egypt which ousted his government. He has described el-Sissi as a “tyrant,” prompting Egypt’s Foreign Ministry to summon the Turkish charge d’affaires.
Erdogan said the U.N. as a world body should be more “brave” in addressing world problems.
“The world is bigger than the five,” he said of the five permanent Security Council members, accusing them of rendering the U.N. ineffective