GCC ex­presses sol­i­dar­ity with France

France, Rus­sia hit IS Moscow con­firms bomb downed jet

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

RIYADH/PARIS/MOSCOW: Gulf for­eign min­is­ters ex­pressed sol­i­dar­ity with France yes­ter­day af­ter at­tacks claimed by the Is­lamic State group killed at least 129 peo­ple in Paris. “The min­is­ters af­firmed the sup­port of the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil to France and her friendly peo­ple at this dif­fi­cult mo­ment,” the six-na­tion bloc’s sec­re­tary gen­eral said in a state­ment af­ter a meet­ing in the Saudi cap­i­tal. Fri­day’s shoot­ings and sui­cide blasts “will only re­in­force the de­ter­mi­na­tion of France and the en­tire world to con­tinue to com­bat ter­ror­ism and up­root th­ese or­ga­ni­za­tions hos­tile to hu­man civ­i­liza­tion,” said GCC Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ab­dul­latif Al-Zayani.

The state­ment came at a min­is­te­rial meet­ing to pre­pare for the GCC’s an­nual sum­mit in De­cem­ber. The GCC in­cludes the monar­chies of Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emi­rates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. Since Sept 2014, French war­planes based in the Gulf have been fly­ing mis­sions against the ex­trem­ist Is­lamic State group in Iraq. France ex­tended its at­tacks on IS to Syria in Septem­ber this year. Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain and the UAE also car­ried out air strikes against IS in

Syria as part of a United States-led coali­tion, al­though their par­tic­i­pa­tion in that cam­paign di­min­ished af­ter a Saudi-led al­liance in March be­gan bomb­ing Iran-backed rebels in Ye­men.

Mean­while, France and Rus­sia agreed to co­or­di­nate their mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity ser­vices in an un­usual al­liance against IS ji­hadists in Syria yes­ter­day af­ter the dev­as­tat­ing at­tack on Paris and the bomb­ing of a Rus­sian plane.

War­planes from both coun­tries un­leashed bombs on the IS strong­hold of Raqqa as Paris and Moscow vowed mer­ci­less re­tal­i­a­tion for at­tacks that have gal­va­nized in­ter­na­tional re­solve to de­stroy the ji­hadists and end the nearly five-year Syr­ian war.

“It’s nec­es­sary to es­tab­lish direct con­tact with the French and work with them as al­lies,” Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin told his mil­i­tary top brass as France pre­pared to send its flag­ship air­craft car­rier to the east­ern Mediter­ranean, where the Rus­sian navy is de­ployed. Hol­lande will hold talks on strength­en­ing co­op­er­a­tion against IS with Putin in Moscow on Nov 26, two days af­ter see­ing US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in Wash­ing­ton.

In griev­ing France, po­lice racked up ar­rests and seized weapons as they scoured the coun­try for clues af­ter a wave of co­or­di­nated at­tacks by gun­men and sui­cide bombers on Fri­day night that left 129 dead and shook the coun­try to its core. Only 117 of the vic­tims have been iden­ti­fied and 221 peo­ple are still in hos­pi­tal. Stunned res­i­dents con­tin­ued to flock to shrines of can­dles and flow­ers, while pho­to­graphs of smil­ing young vic­tims have been pasted at at­tack sites or out­side their places of work.

French in­ves­ti­ga­tors have iden­ti­fied five of seven at­tack­ers who were killed or blew them­selves up in the at­tack, and have launched a man­hunt for an eighth man, 26-year-old Salah Ab­deslam, whose brother was one of the sui­cide bombers. A bus driver and a bar owner were among the ji­hadists, most of whom were French and Bel­gian na­tion­als, while one of them had a pass­port ap­par­ently is­sued in Syria. In­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve Bel­gian ji­hadist Ab­del­hamid Abaaoud, who is based in Syria and knew Salah Ab­deslam, may be the mas­ter­mind of the at­tacks. Po­lice yes­ter­day found a sec­ond car rented in Bel­gium by Salah, while his brother was found to have rented an apart­ment in the Parisian sub­urb of Bo­bigny a few days be­fore the at­tack.

Yes­ter­day, Paris in­voked a never-be­fore used Euro­pean Union ar­ti­cle to ask mem­ber na­tions for help in its mil­i­tary mis­sions that re­ceived unan­i­mous back­ing in Brussels. De­fence Min­is­ter Jean-Yves Le Drian said the EU sup­port would al­low France to have “bi­lat­eral talks where nec­es­sary” with other EU states to es­tab­lish what as­sis­tance France needed. In the Syr­ian city of Raqqa, the strong­hold of IS, French war­planes de­stroyed a com­mand cen­tre and train­ing cen­tre in its sec­ond se­ries of air strikes in 24 hours, ac­cord­ing to Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls. Rus­sia also staged a “sig­nif­i­cant num­ber” of air strikes on Raqqa. The two coun­tries which have been at log­ger­heads over Rus­sia’s role in the Ukraine con­flict, as well as the role of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar AlAs­sad in find­ing peace in Syria, have be­come strange bed­fel­lows as both na­tions have been struck by IS at­tacks.

On a visit to Paris to show his sol­i­dar­ity af­ter the at­tacks, US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry said a “big tran­si­tion” in Syria was prob­a­bly only weeks away af­ter an agree­ment be­tween deeply di­vided coun­tries such as Iran, Rus­sia and Saudi Ara­bia on a path to elec­tions in Syria at week­end talks. “We are weeks away con­ceiv­ably from the pos­si­bil­ity of a big tran­si­tion for Syria,” Kerry said, hail­ing the ad­vances in the po­lit­i­cal process as a “gi­gan­tic step”. How­ever regime and op­po­si­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives have yet to sit down to­gether, and the na­tions in­volved can­not agree on the role of As­sad in any tran­si­tion.

Also, Putin vowed vengeance as Moscow yes­ter­day con­firmed that a bomb at­tack brought down the Rus­sian pas­sen­ger jet over Egypt last month, killing all 224 peo­ple on board. Putin pledged to ramp up Moscow’s bomb­ing cam­paign in Syria in re­sponse to the at­tack but stopped short of blam­ing any one group as the coun­try’s se­cu­rity agency an­nounced a $50 mil­lion re­ward for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to cap­ture of those re­spon­si­ble.

“It is not the first time that Rus­sia con­fronts bar­barous ter­ror­ist crimes”, Putin said in a meet­ing with his se­cu­rity chiefs. “The mur­der of our peo­ple in Si­nai is among the blood­i­est crimes in terms of vic­tims, he said in com­ments re­leased yes­ter­day, vow­ing to hunt down those re­spon­si­ble. “We will search for them any­where they might hide. We will find them in any part of the world and pun­ish them,” he said.

Rus­sia’s se­cu­rity chief Alexan­der Bort­nikov told Putin that the pas­sen­ger jet car­ry­ing tourists back from Egyp­tian re­sort Sharm el-Sheikh on Oct 31 was brought down shortly af­ter take-off over the Si­nai penin­sula by a home-made bomb con­tain­ing ex­plo­sives of “for­eign pro­duc­tion” with a force equiv­a­lent to one kilo of TNT. “We can say un­equiv­o­cally that this was a ter­ror­ist at­tack,” Fed­eral Se­cu­rity Ser­vice (FSB) head Bort­nikov said. The FSB later said it would pay “$50 mil­lion for in­for­ma­tion help­ing to ar­rest the crim­i­nals.”

A group linked to IS had ear­lier claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for down­ing the plane, and Rus­sia had halted all flights to Egypt de­spite re­fus­ing to en­dorse grow­ing sus­pi­cions in Bri­tain and the United States that the plane was blown up by a bomb. Putin did not ex­pressly blame IS for the at­tack on the pas­sen­ger jet but pledged to step up air strikes in Syria where Moscow is con­duct­ing a bomb­ing cam­paign it says is tar­get­ing the IS and other “ter­ror­ist” groups. “The com­bat work of our avi­a­tion in Syria must not only be con­tin­ued. It must be in­ten­si­fied so that the crim­i­nals understand that vengeance is in­evitable,” Putin said.

A US de­fence of­fi­cial said that Rus­sia yes­ter­day staged a “sig­nif­i­cant num­ber” of air strikes on the Is­lamic State group strong­hold of Raqqa in Syria that may have in­volved cruise mis­siles fired from sea and long range bombers. Moscow did not con­firm the strikes but the US of­fi­cial said it had given Wash­ing­ton ad­vanced warn­ing of the at­tacks.

— AFP

RIYADH: Saudi Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs Adel Al-Jubeir (cen­ter) and Ab­dul­latif Al-Zayani (right) Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil (GCC) es­cort Kuwait’s For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah (left) and Qatari For­eign Min­is­ter Khalid Al-At­tiyah (sec­ond right) upon their ar­rival to at­tend the or­di­nary meet­ing of 137th ses­sion of the GCC yes­ter­day.

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