France requests EU aid in Syria, Iraq and Africa
REUTERS photoFrance invoked a never-before-used European Union “mutual-defense clause” to demand on Nov. 17 that its partners provide support for its operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq and other security missions in Africa in the wake of the Paris attacks.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said all 27 of France’s EU partners responded positively. “Every country said: I am going to assist, I am going to help,” he said.
Speaking at an EU defense ministers’ meeting, Le Drian noted France’s military burden in northern Africa, the Central African Republic and Lebanon, and the need to provide national security while a state of emergency is in place, the Associated Press reported.
He 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.”
Article 42.7 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in 2009, states that if a member country “is the victim of armed aggression on its territory,” other members have “an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power.”
The clause is similar to, but less far-reaching than, NATO’s Article 5, which designates an attack on one ally as an attack on them all, and was invoked by the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. It’s the only time Article 5 has been used.
Nonetheless, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said on Nov. 17 that “France has been attacked, so the whole of Europe has been attacked.”
“We’re in a new situation in Europe. This is Sept. 11 for Europe,” Greek Defense Minister Panagiotis Kammenos told reporters in Brussels. Britain, Finland and Sweden immediately said they stand ready to help.
France chose to take the EU route on security aid because the meeting had already been scheduled, meaning that it could move more quickly than through NATO, which only takes decisions unanimously.
Paris already has good backing in Syria and Iraq from NATO heavyweights of the U.S., Britain and Turkey and does not need support from smaller members.
Meanwhile, French and Russian warplanes conducted airstrikes at ISIL targets in Syria’s Raqqa, the self-declared capital of ISIL on Nov. 17.
Russia said on Nov. 17 that it had stepped up air strikes against ISIL in Syria with long-range bombers and cruise missiles after the Kremlin said it wanted retribution for those responsible for blowing up a Russian airliner over Egypt.
President Vladimir Putin, visiting the defense ministry’s command center in Moscow on Nov. 17 evening, was told by military chiefs that the air force had carried out around 2,300 sorties in Syria in the last 48 days and that it would bolster its strike force, which consists of around 50 planes and helicopters, with a further 37 aircraft.
French President Francois Hollande will travel to Washington on Nov. 24 and to Moscow on Nov. 26 to discuss the fight against ISIL and the situation in Syria, the presidency said in a statement Nov. 17.
As the country hampered up its military effects to fight against ISIL outside its boundaries, the probe into the horror intensified with French police carrying out more than 100 raids for a second night running, as a manhunt continued for 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, one of two Belgium-based brothers implicated.
French police conducted 128 new raids overnight across the country just days after Nov. 13’s deadly terror attacks, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Nov. 17.
Cazeneuve told France Info radio police were making rapid progress in their investigation into the attacks but he declined to give further details.