Europe signals to be more active against DAESH

Published 26.11.2015 23:16

Following their meeting with French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian PM Matteo Renzi said they will be more actively combatting DAESH while British PM David Cameron said the U.K. must bomb militants

Lawmakers from Germany's ruling parties will meet on Thursday afternoon to discuss how Berlin can provide more support to France in the fight against DAESH militants following the deadly attacks in Paris. Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to Paris on Wednesday and was asked by French President Francois Hollande to do "even more" in the fight against the militants, who have seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq. She promised to respond very quickly and the meetings on Thursday are a sign Berlin is ready to step up its involvement in the Middle East.

Coalition sources told Reuters that new support measures under consideration included the deployment of German Tornado jets for reconnaissance flights and of refueling aircraft. Germany has already signaled that it will send up to 650 additional soldiers to Mali to provide relief to the French and raise the number of army trainers for Kurdish peshmerga fighters operating in northern Iraq by up to 150. Berlin agreed last year to send arms to the Kurds. Germany is not expected to join the list of countries conducting air strikes in Syria.

On Wednesday in a speech to the German parliament, Merkel pledged solidarity with France, both in mourning the 130 people killed in the Nov. 13 attacks and in France's fight against DAESH, which claimed responsibility for the killings. She later travelled to Paris, laying a rose at the Place de la Republique, and dining with Hollande. In brief statements before the dinner, Hollande asked Germany to do "even more in the fight against Daesh in Syria and Iraq," Merkel said. "When the French president asks me to think about what more we can do, then it is our duty to reflect on this and we will also react very quickly here," she added.

Lawmakers from her conservative bloc and those from her coalition partner, the center-left Social Democrats, were invited to attend separate meetings at 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) on Thursday to discuss offering further military support to France. German officials say a more active role should not be difficult to justify legally in light of multiple United Nations resolutions on Syria and France's invocation of the European Union's mutual assistance clause following the Paris attacks.

British Prime Minister David Cameron tried to persuade reluctant lawmakers to back airstrikes on DAESH in Syria, saying Thursday that the Paris attacks have given the fight new urgency and Britain owes it to key allies to act. Cameron told the House of Commons that U.S. President Barack Obama and Hollande had urged Britain to join the military campaign in Syria. "These are our closest allies and they want our help," he said. Cameron said if Britain didn't act after DAESH-claimed attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, friendly nations might well ask, "if not now, when?" The Royal Air Force is part of a U.S.-led coalition attacking the militants in Iraq, but not in Syria. Cameron has been reluctant to seek backing for strikes in Syria since lawmakers voted down his 2013 plan to launch RAF strikes against the forces of Syria's Bashar Assad.

Earlier this month Parliament's Foreign Affairs Select Committee urged caution, saying British airstrikes would be "incoherent" and ineffective without a plan to end Syria's four-year civil war. Cameron replied Thursday with a 36-page letter, arguing that Britain should act to deny DAESH a "safe haven" in Syria from which to plot mass-casualty attacks around the world. He said airstrikes should be part of a "comprehensive overall strategy" to destroy DAESH, end the Syrian war and help rebuild the country. Attempting to allay legislators' concerns, he argued that military action is legal under the U.N. charter's right to self-defense. And he said that while ground forces would be needed as well, they would not be British. Cameron said airstrikes will not increase the danger of attack in Britain, already considered high. He said British authorities have foiled seven attacks in the past year either planned or inspired by DAESH. Initial reaction from opposition lawmakers was cautious. Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said military action could have "unintended consequences" as it did in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. Angus Robertson of the Scottish National Party said his legislators would not support "a bombing campaign without effective ground support in place or a fully costed reconstruction and stability plan."

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi also pledged support for the anti-DAESH campaign. He has renewed his commitment to fighting terrorism alongside France, saying a broader coalition is needed to destroy DAESH "and the atrocious project that it represents."

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