Global diplo­macy in ‘high gear’

Hol­lande, Cameron bid to rally global sup­port against IS

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

PARIS: Global ef­forts to com­bat the Is­lamic State group gath­ered pace yes­ter­day as Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron pledged sol­i­dar­ity dur­ing a visit to France and Rus­sian leader Vladimir Putin met his al­lies in Iran. A week of fran­tic in­ter­na­tional diplo­macy was un­der way with French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande set to meet all five per­ma­nent mem­bers of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, and the United States try­ing to rally sup­port for a cease­fire in Syria. “I firmly sup­port the ac­tion Pres­i­dent Hol­lande has taken to strike ISIL in Syria,” Cameron said af­ter a break­fast meet­ing in Paris, us­ing an­other acro­nym for IS. “It’s my firm con­vic­tion that Bri­tain should do so too,” he added.

Mean­while, Putin met Iran’s supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei in his first trip to Tehran for eight years. De­scrib­ing the meet­ing as “quite con­struc­tive”, a Krem­lin spokesman said the two coun­tries were against “ex­ter­nal at­tempts to dic­tate sce­nar­ios of po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment in Syria”. The pri­or­ity for both Iran and Rus­sia has been to pro­tect their ally, Syr­ian leader Bashar Al-As­sad, but Moscow has shown signs it will co­op­er­ate more closely with the West since one of its pas­sen­ger jets was blown up by IS over Egypt last month.

At the same time, US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry was in Abu Dhabi hop­ing to forge a coali­tion of Syr­ian op­po­si­tion groups for peace talks. Kerry hopes his Emi­rati and Saudi al­lies can pres­sure rebel fac­tions into ac­cept­ing a cease­fire with As­sad within “a few weeks” - a step seen as cru­cial to re­fo­cus­ing the war on IS. “You can be con­fi­dent that the diplo­matic front is in high gear, with a very real plan on the ta­ble to be im­ple­mented,” Kerry said.

‘Joint Obli­ga­tion’

In Paris, Cameron and Hol­lande stood side by side af­ter lay­ing a wreath at the Bat­a­clan con­cert hall, where 90 of the 130 vic­tims were killed in the Paris at­tacks of Nov 13. Cameron has said he will make his case to the Bri­tish par­lia­ment in the com­ing days for join­ing air strikes on Syria. While Bri­tain has joined US-led coali­tion strikes on IS in Iraq, it has so far held back from hit­ting tar­gets in Syria, where the ji­hadists also hold large swathes of ter­ri­tory. The Bri­tish leader said he had of­fered France the use of a strate­gi­cally lo­cated Bri­tish air­base in Cyprus, RAF Akrotiri, to fa­cil­i­tate air strikes, and as­sis­tance with re­fu­elling French jets.

Defin­ing Week

The first fighter jets took off yes­ter­day from France’s Charles De Gaulle air­craft car­rier, newly de­ployed to the east­ern Mediter­ranean, for oper­a­tions over IS ter­ri­tory in Iraq and Syria. The na­ture of the oper­a­tions was not dis­closed. Hol­lande, who has said France is in a “war” against the ji­hadists, is em­bark­ing on what could be a defin­ing week of his three-year-old pres­i­dency. To­day, he will fly to Wash­ing­ton for talks with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and a day later will meet Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel in Paris.

Com­plet­ing a se­ries of meet­ings with each of France’s fel­low UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil mem­bers, Hol­lande will travel to Moscow for talks with Putin on Thurs­day, and hold a work­ing din­ner with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in Paris on Sun­day. The Se­cu­rity Coun­cil on Fri­day au­tho­rised coun­tries to “take all nec­es­sary mea­sures” to fight IS in a res­o­lu­tion that won unan­i­mous back­ing in the wake of the blood­shed in Paris. The mea­sure drafted by France calls on all UN mem­ber states to “re­dou­ble and co­or­di­nate their ef­forts to pre­vent and sup­press ter­ror­ist at­tacks” com­mit­ted by IS and other ex­trem­ist groups linked to Al-Qaeda.

Hol­lande said he hoped the res­o­lu­tion would “help mo­bilise na­tions to elim­i­nate Daesh”, us­ing an­other al­ter­na­tive name for IS. The USled coali­tion has been pound­ing IS tar­gets in Syria for over a year, but France joined the cam­paign only in Septem­ber and has con­cen­trated its air strikes on the ji­hadists’ Syr­ian strong­hold, Raqqa. Rus­sia has also bombed IS tar­gets but has at­tracted crit­i­cism from Western pow­ers for bomb­ing other rebel groups op­posed to As­sad, a long-time ally of Moscow. Iran has been As­sad’s other main backer since an up­ris­ing broke out against his rule in 2011 and es­ca­lated into a bru­tal civil war. —AFP

PARIS: French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande (right) and Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron shake hands af­ter a joint state­ment fol­low­ing talks yes­ter­day at the El­y­see Pres­i­den­tial Palace. —AFP

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