EU Urges Broad Alliance Against Terrorism, Rules Out Easing Of Russia Sanctions
January 19, 2015
The European Union's foreign-policy chief and foreign ministers from the bloc are calling for a broad counterterrorism alliance in the wake of Islamist militant attacks in France.
Several EU ministers are also ruling out any immediate easing of sanctions against Russia amid continued violence in eastern Ukraine.
The January 7-9 attacks by Islamist militants in Paris and last week's raids on suspected Islamists in Western Europe have raised fears about the potential threat from European citizens returning from the battlefields in Syria and Iraq.
Speaking ahead of talks with the 28 EU foreign ministers in Brussels on January 19, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said there must be more cooperation both with Muslim nations and internally within the EU.
'The threat is not only the one we faced in Paris but is also spreading in many other parts of the world,' Mogherini said. 'We need to share information more. We need to cooperate more.'
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi was attending the talks, which are being held as Belgian troops patrolled the streets in Brussels and other cities.
'We will discuss with the secretary-general how to increase the level of cooperation,' Mogherini said. 'We need an alliance.'
Arabi said that 'every country in the world is suffering from terrorism.'
'It is not just a military or security issue. It covers the intellectual, cultural, media, and religious spheres,' he added, 'and that is what we are trying to get.'
Some EU ministers echoed Mogherini's call, with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier saying the Paris attacks had 'changed Europe and the world.'
'Today, we must discuss what we must do, including possibly increased exchanges with Muslim countries,' Steinmeier said.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Muslim countries "have suffered the greatest burden of terrorism and they will continue to be in the front lines."
'We have to work closely with them to protect both those countries and the EU countries,' he added.
The ministers were to debate in Brussels a range of options in preparation for a February 12 EU summit focused on terrorism.
Hammond said measures to be discussed would include 'passenger name records within Europe.'
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said the police raids launched in his country last week to break up Islamic extremist cells show that information-sharing is the key to success.
'We have to exchange information in Europe and outside Europe to really follow what is going on and to prevent any acts that could be launched on our territory,' Reynders said.
The gathering in Brussels comes as members of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS), including Arab states, are preparing to meet in London on January 22 to discuss 'shared efforts to degrade and defeat' the extremist group.
Relations with Russia, severely strained over the conflict in Ukraine, were also on the agenda for the Brussels talks.
A document seen by RFE/RL suggested the ministers would be exploring 'possible elements for selective and gradual reengagement' with Russia, citing areas of shared concern such as Syria, Iraq, and the threat posed by IS militants.
The United States and European Union have imposed economic sanctions on Russia following Russia's annexation of Crimea last March.
The West also accuses Russia of sending troops and weapons into eastern Ukraine to support the separatists, which Moscow denies.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said that since the fighting between Ukrainian government troops and rebel fighters around the bitterly contested Donetsk airport had intensified, 'this is no time to talk about the easing of sanctions.'
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Antanas Linkevicius said Moscow had shown 'no political will, no movement on the ground, so no reason to change policy.'
Ukraine's army said some 700 Russian troops had crossed into the country in the morning of January 19 to support the rebels.
With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and the BBC
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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