Cameron backs Hollande on strikes against ISIS in Syria

French President Francois Hollande (left) with British Prime Minister David Cameron after a meeting at Paris’ Elysee Palace yesterday. Mr Cameron said he will make a case to the British Parliament about joining air strikes in Syria.
French President Francois Hollande (left) with British Prime Minister David Cameron after a meeting at Paris’ Elysee Palace yesterday. Mr Cameron said he will make a case to the British Parliament about joining air strikes in Syria. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • French President Francois Hollande received strong backing from British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday as global efforts to crush the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gathered speed in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Mr Hollande, who will meet the American, Russian and German leaders in the coming days, said Britain and France had a "joint obligation" to strike at the terror group.

Mr Cameron earlier laid a wreath at the Bataclan concert hall, where 90 people were killed on Nov 13.

"I firmly support the action President Hollande has taken to strike ISIL in Syria," Mr Cameron said after the talks in Paris, using another acronym for ISIS.

"It's my firm conviction that Britain should do so too," he added.

Mr Cameron has said that he will make his case to the British Parliament in the coming days about joining air strikes in Syria. Last year, British lawmakers voted to approve air strikes against ISIS in Iraq but not in Syria.

The British leader also said he had offered France the use of a strategically located British airbase in Cyprus - the RAF Akrotiri - to facilitate air strikes, and assistance with refuelling French jets.

French planes took off yesterday from France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, newly deployed to the eastern Mediterranean, for operations over areas held by ISIS, said military sources. The Charles de Gaulle has 26 fighters, more than doubling France's strike capacity.

Mr Hollande, who has said that France is in a "war" against the militants, is embarking on what could be a defining week of his three-year presidency. He will fly to Washington for talks with United States President Barack Obama today, and will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris a day later.

The focus switches to Moscow on Thursday where he will meet President Vladimir Putin, who has pledged to work more closely with the West against ISIS, following the Paris attacks and the downing of a Russian passenger jet over Egypt last month.

Completing a series of meetings with each of France's fellow United Nations Security Council members, Mr Hollande will have a working dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the French capital on Sunday.

Last Friday, the UN Security Council authorised countries to "take all necessary measures" to fight ISIS, in a resolution that won unanimous backing.

In a key development yesterday, Mr Putin arrived in Teheran for talks with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.

Iran has been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's other main backer since an uprising broke out against his rule in 2011 and escalated into a brutal civil war.

Moscow's recognition that the Russian plane crash, which killed 224 people, was caused by an ISIS bomb appears to have strengthened its resolve to put aside differences with Paris and work together against the militants.

Mr Obama, however, has said Mr Putin needs to make a "fundamental shift" in his support for Mr Assad before the US considers joint military action with Russia against ISIS.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived yesterday in Abu Dhabi to speak to his Emirati counterparts on efforts to build a Syrian opposition coalition to lead peace talks with the Damascus regime.

Mr Kerry said last week that he believed a breakthrough in efforts to find peace in Syria was imminent.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2015, with the headline 'Cameron backs Hollande on strikes against ISIS in Syria'. Print Edition | Subscribe