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Unsympathetic Jacinda Ardern says Kiwi jihadist should have heeded 'utterly clear' warnings

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern continued today to distance herself and the Government from bringing Kiwi jihadist Mark Taylor back home to New Zealand - pointing out that warnings against traveling to Syria "have been utterly clear and unequivocal". 

Taylor, who is originally from Hamilton, is being held in a Syrian prison after being captured by Kurdish forces. He recently sat down with TVNZ1's Sunday for a rare interview. 

The interview and Ms Ardern's statements today come as the US renews calls for allies to take back captured foreign-born Islamic State fighters, with President Donald Trump saying there were "thousands" of fighters held by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. 

In August, Mr Trump told media "we have thousands ISIS fighters that we want Europe to take and let’s see if they take them".

"If they don't take them, we’ll probably have to release them to Europe."

The US ambassador reiterated Trump's message to TVNZ, saying he would be prepared to discuss it. 

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The latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll asked Kiwis about the Hamilton native, currently sitting in a Syrian prison. Source: 1 NEWS

Ms Ardern said today "New Zealand's position has been very, very clear from the outset".

"The reason we gave such clear advice around New Zealanders not travelling to Syria was because of what we're seeing exactly happen now. That there is an individual who is now in a camp where we do not have consulate assistance available and where it would come at risk to provide that assistance."

Asked if she felt comfortable leaving Taylor in Syria, Ms Ardern said "the messages have been utterly clear and unequivocal". 

"A. Do not travel to Syria, and B. Do not engage in terrorist activity," she said. 

"It's still a very volatile area, very volatile region and that of course comes with risk to New Zealand personnel or those who otherwise might provide consular assistance." 

The US Embassy said the US would "welcome" a discussion with New Zealand about the repatriation of foreign terrorist fighters. 

"I've not personally had conversations beyond what I've seen publicly reported, but New Zealand's position has been very, very clear from the outset," Ms Ardern said.  

In March, Jacinda Ardern told media she was confident means were in place "to keep New Zealanders safe" should Mark Taylor, who joined ISIS, return to New Zealand. 

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The PM told TVNZ1’s Breakfast that she has explicitly warned not to travel to Syria because “we do not have the ability to give assistance”. Source: Breakfast

However, she said "in his current state" it would be "difficult" for Taylor to obtain the travel documents needed to return. 

Ms Ardern also said in March the Government is obliged "to not make people state-less", with Taylor only holding a New Zealand citizenship. 

"I can assure you we have long had plans in place in the event a New Zealand citizen support ISIS in Syria were to return. It would involve a comprehensive response and management plan for any individual," she said at the time. 

Taylor burnt his passport while in Syria. The nearest Kiwi diplomats are in Turkey. 

If Taylor was to make it back to New Zealand, he would be facing New Zealand's terrorism law, with penalties ranging from 14 years to life imprisonment.

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Jacinda Ardern said attempting to bring Mark Taylor back from Syria would come with risk to New Zealand personnel. Source: 1 NEWS