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US vetoes UN resolution citing failure to repatriate foreign Islamic State fighters

Washington's envoy says measure that urges 'rehabilitation and reintegration' of militants lacks 'crucial first step' of repatriating foreign fighters
Thousands of European militants joined the Islamic State group when it controlled large parts of Iraq and Syria (AFP/File photo)

The United States vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution that called for the "rehabilitation and reintegration" of detained Islamic State (IS) fighters and their families, saying it missed a crucial part about repatriating foreign militants to their countries of origin where they can face justice.

On Monday, the US blocked a measure that addressed the issue of the thousands of militants detained in Syria without stressing the need for the repatriation of foreign militants.

Washington has long been calling on its European allies to take back their citizens who fought for IS, also known as ISIS, and prosecute them.

"This resolution was meant to address the prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of terrorists, including Foreign Terrorist Fighters and their accompanying family members," US envoy to the UN, Kelly Craft, said in a statement

"And yet it fails to even include reference to the crucial first step – repatriation to countries of origin or nationality."

All 14 other Security Council members voted in favour of the draft. For a resolution to be adopted by the Council, it needs majority support without the objection of any of the five permanent members - the US, China, France, Russia and Great Britain.

Western European countries have resisted calls to take back their citizens who flooded the region in the mid-2010s to fight for IS when the militant group took over large parts of Iraq and Syria. 

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Monday's draft resolution called for "long-term methods to counter violent extremism conducive to terrorism, and incitement to commit terrorist acts".

"The Council would have recognized the significant challenge of radicalization to terrorism and terrorist recruitment in prisons and acknowledge the need to prevent these facilities from serving as potential incubators for radicalization to terrorism and terrorist recruitment, as well as ensure that prisons can serve to rehabilitate and reintegrate prisoners," the UN said in a statement. 

But Washington called the measure a "cynical and willfully oblivious farce".

"All nations need to take responsibility for their citizens who engage in terror," said Craft.

The UK Foreign Office decried the failure to adopt the resolution. "We regret the resolution was not adopted. We are working closely with international partners to reduce the risk posed to us collectively by foreign fighters," it said in a statement.

The United States has repatriated several suspected IS militants who hold US citizenship, and they are being tried on terror charges in American courts.

In July, UN counterterrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov sounded the alarm about the dire conditions at the al-Hol and Roj camps housing IS suspects and their families in northern Syria.

"We must take urgent action to address unresolved issues such as the situation of foreign terrorist fighters and associated women and children detained in camps in Syria and Iraq," Voronkov said.