Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkey Threatens To Release IS Prisoners Over EU Sanctions

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was angered by EU sanctions over drilling for gas in Mediterranean waters.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

President Erdogan has spoken to reporters before heading to Washington (Picture: Kremlin).

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned he could release so-called Islamic State (IS) prisoners and send them back to Europe.

The leader made the comments a day after an EU decision to impose sanctions on Ankara over its drilling for gas in Mediterranean waters off Cyprus.

Turkish drill ships, escorted by warships, began exploratory drilling this summer in waters where Cyprus says it has exclusive economic rights.

Speaking to reporters before a visit to the US, Mr Erdogan said Turkey would continue repatriating foreign IS militants to their home countries, even if those countries decline to take them back.

"You should revise your stance toward Turkey, which at the moment holds so many IS members in prison and at the same time controls those in Syria," he warned European nations.

"These gates will open and these IS members who have started to be sent to you will continue to be sent. Then you can take care of your own problem."

Turkey, a NATO nation, claims its drilling off the coast of Cyprus is protecting its rights and those of the Turkish Cypriots on the divided island.

Turkey has intensified a push to return IS prisoners after failing to receive support from the West over last month's offensive (Picture: PA).

Mr Erdogan's comments came as Turkey recently commenced a new push to send captured IS fighters back to their home countries.

He told Western nations Turkey was not a "hotel" for IS supporters.

Last week, Turkey said about 1,200 IS militants were held in Turkish prisons and that 287 IS members, including women and children, were captured during the country's offensive in Syria last month.

On Monday, Turkey deported citizens of the US, Denmark and Germany and announced plans to expel seven other Germans, two Irish nationals and 11 from France.

Turkish news reports on Monday said a US citizen, who had been deported by Turkey, was stuck in a heavily militarised no-man's land between Greece and Turkey after Greece refused to take him in.

Responding to the reports, Mr Edrogan said: "Whether they are stuck there at the border it doesn't concern us.

"We will continue to send them. Whether they take them or not, it is not our concern."