Fears that ISIS terrorists might pose as refugees to gain access to Turkey, Western Europe, and beyond was reignited after the Paris attacks when a Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the attackers. French authorities have not confirmed whether this passport is genuine.
So while Turkey planned to discuss terrorism and the refugee crisis during a working dinner on Sunday night, these two topics became decidedly more front and center at the meeting. After meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, President Obama reaffirmed the U.S.’s commitment to fighting ISIS and solving the crisis in Syria.
“We will redouble our efforts, working with other members of the coalition, to bring about a peaceful transition in Syria and to eliminate Daesh as a force that can create so much pain and suffering for people in Paris, in Ankara, and in other parts of the globe,” he said. Daesh is an acronym for ISIS’s name in Arabic, and the name is becoming increasingly popular with world leaders.
However, CBS reports that beyond assurances like this, there is little evidence of concrete plans for how world leaders aim to eliminate ISIS. Figuring out how to defeat such an enemy is both a tactical and geopolitical challenge.
Turkey itself, for example, has a complicated relationship with ISIS. The root of this lies in Turkey’s even more complicated relationship with the Kurds, and their historical claim for independence. Over the summer, Turkey launched airstrikes against the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group considered to be a terrorist organization by Turkey and Western allies, while at the same time announcing that Turkey would finally join the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.
But another group of Kurdish militants, the YPG, have been instrumental in providing the U.S. with intelligence for strikes against ISIS inside Syria. This partnership has been a boon for the YPG, as they’ve been able to occupy a swath of territory along the Turkish border with Syria. One theory for Turkey’s sudden interest in joining the fight against ISIS is that the government felt a need to “check in on” Kurdish territorial claims in the area. One condition for Turkish participation with the U.S. was a so-called “buffer zone”—an ISIS- and Kurd-free area in Syria along the Turkish border.
On migration, the summit comes at a pivotal time for international consensus. According to Reuters, the G20’s participants will publish a communique on Monday declaring that the refugee crisis is a global problem. Both Turkey and Europe have been pushing for the statement, but the public will have to wait until Monday to see exactly what this statement contains.
As the debate over migration and safety heats up in Europe, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker reminded the leaders not to conflate refugees with terrorists. “We should not mix the different categories of people coming to Europe. The one responsible for the attacks in Paris … he is a criminal and not a refugee and not an asylum seeker,” he said ahead of the summit.
French President François Hollande cancelled his trip to Antalya after the attacks. Instead, he will stay in Paris to oversee the ongoing state of emergency and pay tribute to victims with three days of mourning. Finance Minister Michel Sapin and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius are representing the country instead.