France made an unprecedented demand Tuesday that its European Union allies support its military action against the Islamic State group after the attacks in Paris — a request that came as France launched new airstrikes on the militants’ stronghold in Syria.
The deadly Paris attacks have galvanized international determination to confront the militants. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, currently in the Mediterranean, to start cooperating with the French military on operations in Syria and US Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that a cease-fire between Syria’s government and the opposition could be arranged in the next few weeks to let nations focus on fighting IS.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks Friday in Paris that killed at least 129 people and left over 350 wounded.
The French government invoked a never-before-used article of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty obliging members of the 28-nation bloc to give “aid and assistance by all the means in their power” to a member country that is “the victim of armed aggression on its territory.”
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said all 27 of France’s EU partners responded positively, and they 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.”
Paris police said 16 people had been arrested in the region in relation to the deadly attacks, and police have carried out 104 raids since a state of emergency was declared Saturday.
French President Francois Hollande has vowed to forge a united coalition capable of defeating the jihadists at home and abroad. NATO allies were sharing intelligence and working closely with France, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said.
Russia has deployed its fleet of strategic bombers to double the volume of airstrikes on Islamist targets in Syria, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has announced. Vladimir Putin has ordered a cruiser to coordinate operations with French naval forces in the Mediterranean.
“We are conducting a mass airstrike campaign against Islamic State targets in Syria. We have now doubled the number of sorties, which is allowing us to conduct operations throughout the length and breadth of the country,”Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said during a Security Council meeting in Moscow chaired by the Russian president.
Shoigu said that Russia’s Tu-95, Tu-22 and Tu-160 strategic bombers have been brought into the operation, while the Air Force command added that the strike group has been bolstered with 37 new planes, including Su-34 bombers and Su-27 fighter jets.
The head of the General Staff reported that the new phase of the anti-ISIS campaign will involve 25 long-range bombers flying out of airfields in Russia.
“By conducting military missions in Syria, you are protecting Russia and her citizens,” Putin told his military chiefs. “Our air campaign in Syria must not only be continued, it must be boosted, in such a way that the criminals are made aware that retribution is inevitable.”
The Russian president has issued orders for Russia’s Moskva cruiser, covering the Russian base in Latakia from the Mediterranean Sea, to work together with a French naval group led by flagship Charles De Gaulle, a 26 fighter-jet aircraft carrier, which is departing for Syria this week.
“The French naval group, led by the air carrier, will soon reach your area of operations. We need to establish direct contact with it, and treat it as an ally,” the Russian president said. “We need to develop of a joint action plan for both sea and air operations.”
The Kremlin said that the parameters for a joint mission had been agreed upon by Putin and French President Francois Hollande, following a personal phone call.
“The two leaders focused their attention on bilateral and multilateral cooperation in combating terrorism,” a Kremlin statement said. “This includes closer ties and joint operations between the military command and intelligence services of Russia and France in Syria.”
Vladimir Putin and Francois Hollande are to meet in Moscow on November 26.