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Hollande searches for ‘large coalition’ - Daily News Egypt

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Hollande searches for ‘large coalition’

Fighting “Islamic State” is the priority in Syria, not Al-Assad, say Russian and French analysts

French President Francois Hollande implied that a coalition between France, Russia and the US would be formed to fight “Islamic State” (IS) in Syria.

Hollande announced he would travel to Washington next week and Moscow two days later to discuss stepping up cooperation against IS with Obama and Putin.

Hollande added that he wants a “large coalition” against the militant group since it threatens the safety of the entire world.

France conducted air strikes against IS targets in the Syrian city of Raqqa for the third night in a row. “The operations in Syria have been intensified,” said Hollande, adding that French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is set to leave for the Middle East, will “triple our capacity to strike” the militants.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called on all countries to join forces in the fight against international terrorism.

“I am deeply convinced that we should be together in this struggle,” said Medvedev upon arrival to the Philippines.

Being divided, Russia and other countries will only be able to “somehow counter terrorism”, he said.

“Of course, Russia can live without these contacts,” he said. “We will continue to confront terrorism the same way as before and we will win this fight. The West will, probably, withstand as well. The question is: at what price?”

Medvedev stressed that the recent terrorist attacks on Russia and France have affected the entire world. “An explosion in the Russian plane over the Sinai Peninsula, which claimed the lives of 224 people, the mass murder of people in Paris is not a crime against a single country. This is a crime against the entire world, and we should confront terrorists together,” he said.

The Russian federal security director Alexander Bortnikov said Tuesday that the Russian plane crash in Sinai was caused by a bomb since they found traces of a homemade explosive device in the wreckage.

The Egyptian cabinet said in a statement that it will take the Russian investigations into consideration.

In a phone call between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and his Russian counterpart, both sides agreed to enforce cooperation to fight terrorism, according to a statement released by the Egyptian presidency.

“The president expressed the understanding of the people of Egypt for the pain felt in Russia as a result of the crash of the Russian plane, hinting to the cooperation shown by the Egyptian authorities with the Russian authorities concerned in all stages of the investigation,” the statement read.

Russia will use the right to self-defence guaranteed in the UN Charter to fight terrorists, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement released Tuesday about the Metrojet A321 plane crash in Egypt on 31 October.

“We consider the barbaric attack on our citizens in the context of the recent series of bloody terror strikes committed in Paris, Beirut, Iraq, Ankara, and Egypt,” the statement read. Under these circumstances, Russia will act in compliance with Article 51 of the UN Charter, which provides for the right of a state to self-defence.

Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said: “The terrorist act in the Sinai Peninsula was an attack on Russian citizens, which is equivalent to an attack on the state.”

Moscow asked for the UN Security Council not to waste time and to pass a resolution on forming a broad anti-terrorist coalition.

The Russian Parliament (Duma) called on lawmakers from Europe, North America, the Middle East, and other regions “to spare no effort to form an international anti-terrorist coalition,” according to its statement.

“The Russian lawmakers share the grief and sorrow of the families of those killed in unprecedented brutal and large-scale attack of Islamic State gunmen in Paris and the crash of the Russian A321 plane in Sinai that was caused by actions of terrorists,” the statement read.

Meanwhile in Paris, a raid that was carried out by French police in St-Denis Wednesday has ended with two deaths; a woman who blew herself using an explosive belt, and a person killed by a sniper. Seven people were arrested.

Heavy gunfire was heard in Paris as police searched for suspects in a flat in St-Denis.

The target of the raid is said to be the alleged mastermind of Friday’s attacks that killed 129 people, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian of Moroccan origin.

Abaaoud was believed to be in Syria, but intelligence suggested that he is in Paris.

President Hollande commented on the raid, saying: “The anti-terror operation in Saint Denis confirms that we are at war.” Addressing a meeting of French mayors, Hollande added that French youth is being targeted because they represent “vitality, generosity, freedom and quite simply, life”.

Meanwhile, a football game between Germany and Netherlands was supposed to take place in the German city of Hannover, but was cancelled due to security concerns.

German chancellor Angela Merkel defended the decision. “I was just as sad as the millions of fans that the match was cancelled. But the security officials took a responsible decision,” Merkel said in a brief statement to reporters.

On his part, Russian expert Viacheslav Matozov believes the Russian reaction will be “aggravating” to those who participated in bringing the Russian plane down, based on Article 51 of the UN Charter.

“Russia will defend itself in collaboration with other countries like Egypt, Syria, and now France after Paris attacks,” Matozov told Daily News Egypt. He added that Putin has ordered the air forces to use strategic bombers conducting their first airstrikes against “Islamic State” and other terrorist groups in Syria on Tuesday.

Matozov also believes Russia will work with France to target terrorism in Syria. Regarding the effect of their different points of views about the Syrian regime on this collaboration, Matozov said “the issue of the Syrian regime is not on the agenda”.

“The fate of the Syrian regime will be decided only by Syrian people,” he said. He added that if the West is serious about fighting terrorism in Syria, they must focus more on fighting IS.

On whether  the Russian collaboration with Egypt may result in joint operations in Sinai, Matozov believes “this is not necessary”.

“I don’t think that a Russian direct intervention in Sinai will be necessary,” he said. “The Egyptian forces are capable of fighting terrorism in Sinai, and Russia will offer any technical or intelligence help.”

French political analyst Gespard Estrada agreed with Matozov on the priority of Fighting IS. “I think France will now focus on the fight against IS, instead of attempting, in the same movement, to change the Syrian regime and destroy IS, as is the case today,” Estrada told Daily News Egypt.  He added that France can collaborate with Russia in Syria by sharing intelligence regarding key IS positions, in order to destroy them.

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