France gets EU support after calling for anti-ISIS coalition

An armed soldier stands guard outside the European Council headquarters in Brussels.

An armed soldier stands guard outside the European Council headquarters in Brussels.


European Union defence ministers on Tuesday unanimously backed France’s request for help with military missions in the wake of the Paris attacks, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.

On Monday, France’s President Francois Hollande called on the United States and Russia on Monday to join a global coalition to destroy Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) following the attacks in Paris, and hours later French fighter jets launched fresh strikes on targets in Syria.

“France has requested aid and assistance in accordance with article 42-7. It’s an article that has never been used before in the history of our union,” Mogherini said, referring to part of the EU treaties that provides for solidarity of member states in the event one of them is attacked.

“Today the EU through the voices of all the member states unanimously expressed its strongest full support and readiness to give the assistance needed,” she told a press conference in Brussels with French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

“France will be in contact bilaterally in coming hours and days to express the support it requires and the EU will ensure the greatest effectiveness in our common response,” former Italian foreign minister Mogherini added.

The French minister said the EU’s support was a “political act of great significance.”

Le Drian said it would “allow us in the hours to come to have bilateral talks where necessary” with other EU states to establish what aid France needed.

This aid could either be in support of France’s Syria airstrikes but also in other theatres, adding that France “can’t be everywhere at the same time.”

“I felt a lot of emotion from my colleagues” over the Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State group which left 129 people dead, he said, adding that many of his counterparts had addressed him personally in French to pay their respects.

Strikes against ISIS

A spokesman for France’s military command told Reuters early on Tuesday that 10 French warplanes, launched from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, had conducted air strikes overnight targeting a command center and a recruitment center for jihadists in ISIS stronghold of Raqqa.

Parliamentarians had given Hollande a standing ovation before spontaneously singing the “Marseillaise” national anthem in a show of political unity after the worst atrocity France has seen since World War Two.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for Friday’s coordinated attacks, saying they were in retaliation for France’s involvement in U.S.-backed air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

Hollande pledged that France would intensify the assaults on ISIS, and said he would meet U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the coming days to urge them to pool their resources.

“We must combine our forces to achieve a result that is already too late in coming,” the president said.

The U.S.-led coalition has been bombing Islamic State for more than a year. Russia joined the conflict in September, but Western officials say it has mainly hit foreign-backed fighters battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, not Islamic State.


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