Paris terror attacks: Retaliation

'Attacks planned in Syria, prepared in Belgium'

French President Francois Hollande (centre), flanked by Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (left) and Prime Minister Manuel Valls (right), observing a minute of silence at the Sorbonne University in Paris on Nov 16.
French President Francois Hollande (centre), flanked by Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (left) and Prime Minister Manuel Valls (right), observing a minute of silence at the Sorbonne University in Paris on Nov 16.PHOTO: REUTERS

VERSAILLES • French President Francois Hollande yesterday said the Paris attacks were decided in Syria, prepared in Belgium and perpetrated with French help.

Friday's "acts of war... were decided and planned in Syria, prepared and organised in Belgium (and) perpetrated on our soil with French complicity," he said, speaking to an exceptional joint gathering of Parliament in Versailles, south of Paris.

He called for a unified front to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) following last week's attacks in Paris.

Speaking to lawmakers in Versailles, Mr Hollande said the United States and Russia must join forces to rout ISIS. "I will call both Obama and Putin to unite our efforts and seek a solution," Mr Hollande said, referring to the US and Russian presidents.

French officials believe last Friday's events were directed by ISIS in Syria using extremist cells located in Belgium, where police are extending a crackdown on suspected extremists in Brussels.

Mr Hollande said in the solemn address that 19 nationalities were represented among the victims of the attacks in Paris, and called on France to show "perseverence" and "unity" in the wake of the worst terrorist attack on French soil.

"What was targeted by the terrorists, it's the France open to the world," Mr Hollande said, adding that "dozens of foreign friends are among the victims, representing 19 nationalities."

It was the first time in more than six years that a French president has addressed both Houses of Parliament - the Senate and the National Assembly - convened in a so-called Congress at Versailles.

It is a procedure reserved for constitutional revisions and major presidential speeches.

Mr Hollande said France wanted more effective controls of the European Union's external borders to avoid a return to national border controls and the dismantling of the EU.

France will step up strikes in Syria and called on the United Nations Security Council to rapidly issue a resolution against terrorism.

"In the meantime, France will intensify its operations in Syria," Mr Hollande said, describing the country as "the biggest factory of terrorists the world has known".

He said France was at war against cowards, and not in a clash of civilisations.

"We're not engaged in a war of civilisations, because these assassins do not represent any."

He added: "Our democracy has triumphed before over adversaries that were much more formidable than these cowards."

He called for change to France's Constitution to help fight terrorism, and that the French Parliament will debate a possible three-month state of emergency.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2015, with the headline ''Attacks planned in Syria, prepared in Belgium''. Print Edition | Subscribe