US Adds Turkey to List of Countries Involved in Use of Child Soldiers

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The US State Department determined in its 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) that Turkey is providing “tangible support” to the Sultan Murad division in Syria, a Syrian opposition faction that Ankara has since supported. long and a group that Washington has said it has recruited and used. child soldiers.

There was no immediate reaction from the moving Turkey.

On a conference call with reporters, a senior State Department official also referred to the use of child soldiers in Libya, saying Washington hoped to work with Ankara on the issue to address it.

“With regard to Turkey in particular (…) this is the first time that a NATO member has been listed in the law on the prevention of child soldiers,” said the head of the department. of state. “As a respected regional leader and member of NATO, Turkey has the opportunity to address this issue – the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Syria and Libya,” she said.

Turkey has carried out three cross-border operations in Syria against the so-called Islamic State, as well as US-backed Kurdish militias, and has frequently used factions of armed Syrian fighters in addition to its own forces.

Some of these groups have been accused by human rights groups and the United Nations of indiscriminately attacking civilians and carrying out kidnappings and looting. The United Nations had asked Ankara to bring these Syrian rebels under control while Turkey rejected the allegations, calling them “baseless”.

Turkey, through proxies and its own armed forces, has also been implicated in the Libyan conflict. Ankara’s support helped the Tripoli-based government reverse a 14-month assault by eastern forces backed by Egypt and Russia.

Governments on this list are subject to restrictions, according to the State Department report, on certain security aids and trade licenses for military equipment, in the absence of a presidential waiver.

It was not immediately clear whether restrictions would automatically apply to Turkey and the move raised questions whether it could derail Ankara’s ongoing negotiations with Washington over Turkey’s offer to handle the Afghan airport in Kabul once the United States has completed the withdrawal of its troops.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the two things are unlikely to be linked. “Regarding trafficking in persons, I would not want to tie today’s report to the constructive discussions we are having with Turkey, in the context of Afghanistan or any other area of ​​common interest,” he said during a briefing.

Turkey has offered to keep and manage Hamid Karzai Airport after NATO pulls out and has held talks with the United States on logistical and financial support for the mission.

The mission could be a potential area of ​​cooperation between Ankara and its allies amid strained ties, as airport security is crucial for the functioning of diplomatic missions outside of Afghanistan after the withdrawal.

To carry out this task, Ankara has requested various financial and operational backing, and President Joe Biden, in a meeting last month with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, said US support would be forthcoming, the President said. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

Price described Turkey as a “very constructive and very useful partner” with regard to Afghanistan and added that Washington could have more to say about the implications.

“As you know, there is potential for a waiver that would come from the president, but it will happen, if it does, in the months to come,” he said.


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