U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers, left is welcomed by Belgium's Interior Minister Joelle Milquet at the Egmont Palace in Brussels, Wednesday Dec. 4, 2013. Milquet organized a meeting with the interior ministers from the Netherlands, France, Germany, Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Australia, Canada and the U.S. to discuss the problem of foreign fighters in Syria and the impact on homeland security. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)The Associated Press
Germany's Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, left, talks with French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, during the Home Affairs council meeting, at the European Council building in Brussels, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. The EU ministers discuss topics as foreign fighters and returnees from a counter-terrorism perspective, in particular with regard to Syria. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)The Associated Press
BRUSSELS – Belgium's interior minister says the overall number of fighters in Syria from the European Union could total up to 2,000.
Joelle Milquet said Thursday after a meeting involving a dozen nations that the total was "estimated at, more or less, between 1,500 and 2,000." She did not say how she got that number.
Milquet has been pushing for a united front within the 28-nation bloc to deal with the threat the increase of foreign fighters in Syria poses.
Her French counterpart Manuel Valls said the estimate included over 180 fighters coming from France, double the total before the summer.
The number is a rare public estimate. An AP analysis of government and expert figures published Tuesday found that the 11 western European countries with the biggest contingents in Syria are estimated to have some 1,200-1,700 people among rebel forces.