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Global Counterterrorism Forum Opens In Istanbul

The second meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) opened in the Turkish city of Istanbul Thursday, with foreign ministers and senior representatives from 30 countries and the United Nations in attendance.

The two-day meeting, aimed at discussing and devising strategies to deal with problems and threats posed by terrorism, is being co-chaired by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Launched in September 2011, the GCTF is an informal, multilateral counterterrorism body that focuses on identifying critical civilian counterterrorism needs, mobilizing the necessary expertise as well as resources to address issues and building a global political will to combat the menace. It has 30 nations as its founder members, including the US, most EU states, Several Arab nations, Russia, China and Pakistan.

Opening the session, Davutoglu highlighted the necessity for launching coordinated international efforts to deal with the threat posed by terrorism to nations across the world, and said: "One thing is crystal clear to all of us: no country is immune from this threat and we cannot win the fight against terrorism unless we join hands."

The Turkish foreign minister noted that terrorism cannot be tackled just by implementing tough law enforcement measures, and said: "We have to preserve the critical balance between security requirements on the one hand, and democratic freedoms and basic human rights on the other."

Regarding Turkey's ongoing fight against the separatist Kurdish rebel group PKK, Davutoglu said the PKK continues to "claim innocent lives in Turkey and the number of victims at its hands increases, as does our indignation against the PKK and its supporters. We expect full support in this fight from the global community, in line with their international obligations."

Later, Clinton said in her address that the United States would continue to support Turkey in its fight against the PKK, noting that the terror group "continues its long campaign of terror and violence which have claimed tens of thousands of lives" in Turkey.

The US Secretary of State reminded the participants of GCTF, saying: "It is often easier to focus on concerns and crises of the moment, but the long-term partnership we are building through this forum will pay off for years to come."

Noting the recent progress achieved by the international community in its fight against terrorism, Clinton said: "Our citizens are safer because of the work we have done together. But despite this progress, the danger from terrorism remains urgent and undeniable."

"We need a strategic, comprehensive approach to counterterrorism that integrates both military and civilian power, that uses intelligence, law enforcement, diplomacy development, humanitarian assistance. To defeat a terrorist network, we need to do more than to remove terrorists from the battlefield. We need to attack finances, recruitment and safe havens," she added.

EU foreign policy chief told the participants that the uniting force behind GCTF "is our determination to step up our collaboration and achieve a more effective international effort to prevent and fight terrorism. And also a desire to increase mutual understanding and trust."

Noting that both these objectives are important, Ashton reaffirmed the commitment of the European Union to tackle terrorist groups worldwide, including the PKK. She said common promotion and application of a criminal justice and rule of law approach on tackling terrorism remains one of the fundamental concepts of the GCTF.

The ministers' session of the Coordinating Committee in Istanbul will be followed by technical meetings of the Committee on Thursday afternoon and is expected to last through Friday.

by RTT Staff Writer

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