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Homeland Security

Hollande Urges Russia to Join Forces to Defeat Islamic State

by VOA News November 26, 2015

French President Francois Hollande urged Russia to join world powers in creating a grand coalition to defeat the Islamic State militants who not only attacked Paris two weeks ago but control large areas of Iraq and Syria.

Hollande, on a diplomatic offensive to build a large force against the militant Islamist group, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday to discuss coordinating more closely in the fight against their common enemy while seeking a political solution in Syria.

France and Russia have faced recent terror attacks. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the November 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people and injured more than 300, and the October 31 downing of a Russian plane over the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, which killed all 224 people on board.

'Our enemy is Daesh, Islamic State, it has territory, an army and resources, so we must create this large coalition to hit these terrorists,' Hollande said in televised remarks at the start of bilateral talks at the Kremlin. Daesh is the Arabic name for the militant group.

'I'm in Moscow with you to see how we can act together and coordinate so that we can strike this terrorist group, but also reach a solution for peace,' Hollande said.

'Mutual enemy'

Putin said Moscow was ready to unite with Paris against a 'mutual enemy' following the downing of the Russian airliner and the attacks in Paris.

However, the exchange between the two leaders was awkward, due to strained relations between Russia and the West over the crisis in Ukraine and differing policies in the Middle East.

Any cooperation is likely to be complicated by Russia's own military operation in Syria, which is aimed at ensuring the survival of Moscow's longtime ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Middle East policies

Russia has repeatedly tried to portray its military campaign as targeting the Islamic State group, even though many of its strikes have instead targeted Western-backed rebels.

In an interview with Al-Hurra TV in Baghdad this week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia's intervention in Syria is aimed at helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He said 85 percent of Russian airstrikes in Syria are not directed against the Islamic State group.

Earlier this week, Hollande held talks in Washington with U.S. President Barack Obama on combating Islamic State, as well as in Paris with the leaders of Germany, Britain and Italy.

In a speech to Parliament, British Prime Minister David Cameron made an urgent appeal for his country to join coalition airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria, asking 'if not now, when?'

'We have to deny a safe haven for ISIL in Syria,' Cameron said, using an acronym for the group. 'The longer ISIL is allowed to grow in Syria, the greater the threat it will pose.'

'It is wrong for the United Kingdom to subcontract its security to other countries,' he added. "We do face a fundamental threat to our security. We can't wait for a political transition; we have to hit these terrorists in their heartlands right now."

Striking in Syria

Striking Islamic State from the skies over Syria may reduce the threat, but it won't make the West safe from attacks like those in Paris, said Michael Stephens of the Royal United Services Institute.

"What we need to be careful about here is to overemphasize the control that Islamic State has on attacks which occur in Europe, or even in the Sinai. I think there is some evidence that those were slightly autonomous – and that's a completely different issue. That's a homeland security issue,' Stephens said.

Analyst Sajjan Gohel of the Asia-Pacific Foundation said the airstrikes will not defeat the Islamic group, though. "They don't hurt the group's infrastructure. More needs to be done to dismantle ISIS on the ground."

Cameron said Obama and Hollande have urged London to join the campaign. 'These are our closest allies, and they want help,' he said.

Britain has participated in coalition airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq, but not in Syria. Cameron had said he would bring the issue to a vote, but only when he is assured the measure can pass.

Also, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday the government had agreed to send reconnaissance aircrafts, tanker planes and a warship, as well as provide satellite surveillance, to help France in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The already complicated situation in the region was thrown into further disarray Tuesday, when Turkey downed a Russian jet near the Syrian-Turkey border, killing one pilot.

Henry Ridgwell in London contributed to this report. Some material for this report came from Reuters and AP.

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