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G7 divided over how to handle return of jihadists still in Syria and Iraq

Damien MEYER / AFP | G7 ministers pose for the family picture of the G7 Foreign ministers on April 5, 2019 in Dinard, western France during a meeting to prepare the G7 Summit in Biarritz which will take place from August 25 to 27, 2019.

The interior ministers of the Group of Seven, a gathering of the world's most advanced economies, adopted joint commitments on Friday to better handle the world's security challenges, even though different views on how to handle jihadists remain.

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In a statement at the end of a two-day meeting in Paris, the G-7 countries agreed to reinforce tools to combat the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking. They stressed the need for facilitating access to asylum for refugees and implementing the forced return of migrants who are denied permission to remain.

The ministers also discussed how to handle foreign fighters who joined the Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq - yet still have different views on the issue.

The U.S. wants countries to take back their citizens but Western countries, including France, have largely refused to do so and want them to go on trial in the places where they committed their crimes. Germany, however, has raised the idea of creating a specific international criminal court to try them.

All G-7 countries stressed the risk that the fighters will scatter and committed to "ensure that all foreign terrorist fighters who are or were in conflict zones are held accountable for their actions."

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who hosted the meeting, declared it a success.

"While some of us have different views, we were able ... to lay down concrete guidelines on key security issues," he said.

The interior ministers held a meeting a day earlier with representatives of Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft and asked them to establish protocols to better combat terrorism, for instance by removing extremist content in emergency situations.

Castaner said "now we clearly have common goals and the real change is that (internet) companies are now themselves asking for regulation."

U.S. Homeland Security official Claire Grady said there is "potentially" room for regulation of internet companies but stressed that the U.S. wants any change to preserve promotion of innovation and opportunity for small companies.

Meanwhile, G-7 foreign ministers are about to kick off a two-day meeting in the Atlantic resort of Dinard, with a focus on cybersecurity, the trafficking of drugs, arms and migrants in Africa's troubled Sahel region and fighting gender inequality.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen stayed at home citing domestic duties and Washington sent lower-ranking officials instead. The move raised questions about the G-7's effectiveness at solving the issues that are being tackled.

In addition to the U.S., the G-7 includes France, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy and the U.K.

The Paris and Dinard meetings aim at preparing a G-7 summit that France will host in August in the southwestern city of Biarritz.

(AP)

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