France Requests Military Support From EU Allies
November 17, 2015
France has made an unprecedented demand for military and other aid from its EU partners in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris.
The French government invoked a never-before-used EU mutual assistance clause that requires all of the bloc's 28 members to provide 'aid and assistance' to a partner country that is the 'victim of armed aggression on its territory.'
In announcing the appeal at an EU defense ministers' meeting in Brussels on November 17, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said EU partners could help 'either by taking part in France's operations in Syria or Iraq, or by easing the load or providing support for France in other operations.'
Le Drian said all EU defense ministers had voiced support.
'Every country said: I am going to assist, I am going to help,' he said.
Greek Defense Minister Panagiotis Kammenos told reporters that the Paris attacks were monumental for the bloc.
'This is September 11 for Europe,' he said, referring to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks on a concert hall, a stadium, bars, and restaurants that killed at least 129 people and wounded some 350.
French President Francois Hollande has described the attacks as an 'act of war,' and Paris has stepped up air strikes on Islamic State militants in Syria.
The French military said its latest air strikes in the Islamic State group's de-facto capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa destroyed a command post and training camp.
On November 16, Hollande vowed to forge a united coalition capable of defeating the Islamist militants at home and abroad.
Hollande called on the international community, led by the United States and Russia, to overcome their deep-seated divisions over Syria to destroy IS on its home turf.
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered France military support on November 17, ordering the Russian Navy in the eastern Mediterranean to coordinate its actions on the sea and in the air with the French Navy.
Putin's action came after the Kremlin concluded a bomb had destroyed a Russian airliner over Egypt last month, killing 224 people.
Islamic State militants said they were responsible. Up until now, Russia had played down assertions from Western countries that the October 31 crash was the work of terrorists.
Hollande, who has declared a state of emergency, met U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on November 17 in Paris to press his call for the U.S.-led and Russian-led coalitions to join forces.
Hollande is expected to travel to Washington next week to discuss with his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, further cooperation on fighting terrorism and the crisis in Syria.
Kerry said Islamic State was in retreat, but cautioned any increased coordination with Moscow would require progress in a political drive to end the war.
That process is complicated by a U.S. demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad steps down.
Meanwhile, French police staged 128 raids overnight in the hunt for accomplices and Islamist militant networks, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on November 17, adding that the investigation was making fast progress.
He added that 115,000 security personnel have been mobilized across the country following last week's deadly attacks in the capital, Paris.
One top suspect in the Paris attacks, Frenchman Salah Abdeslam, 26, remains at large.
French prosecutors have identified five of the seven dead assailants from the attacks -- four Frenchmen and a foreigner fingerprinted in Greece among refugees last month.
In addition to the suspect on the run, police believe at least four other people helped organize the mayhem.
In Brussels, Belgium's government announced it was deploying up to 300 additional soldiers in major cities, after it raised its terror threat level and canceled a friendly football match against Spain scheduled for November 17.
Meanwhile, police in London promise a robust presence at Wembley Stadium, where France is due to play England later in the day.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
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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