Delegates from several European countries and the United States, Turkey, Morocco, Jordan and Tunisia are to meet next month to discuss ways to stop young fighters from leaving their countries to join rebel groups in Syria, Belgium says.

Joelle Milquet, Belgium's interior minister, said on Thursday that Brussels, which took steps last year to address the problem, wants to increase cooperation with European and other partners.

"Coping with the return [of fighters], that is our main concern," Milquet said, pointing to the presence of al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria.

The European Union warned earlier this year that the number of young Europeans going to fight in Syria and countries like Somalia and Sudan was growing.

EU leaders fear that those who fight in conflicts abroad will return home radicalised and trained in guerrilla tactics and will pose a security risk.

Milquet set up an informal ministerial group with France last year, bringing together officials from Britain, the Netherlands and Spain. The group later met with officials from the US, Canada and Australia. 

Milquet said the next meeting, scheduled for May 8, would bring together nine European countries in Brussels.

Turkey, Morocco, Jordan and Tunisia were also invited to attend the discussions.

Other efforts

Both France and England recently announced plans to prevent their citizens from leaving home to fight in Syria's war.

France on Wednesday said it would start to implement 20 measures to deal with the problem.

"France will take all measures to dissuade, prevent and punish those who are tempted to fight where they have no reason to be," Francois Hollande, France's president, told reporters on Tuesday.

Laurent Fabius, the country's foreign minister, estimated that the number of French nationals involved in Syria's conflict was around 500.

In the UK, police said they would appeal to Muslim women to help persuade young people not to fight in the war.

Hundreds of Britons are thought to have joined rebel forces who are fighting Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad.

Source: Agencies