Bastille Day attack

Asian, European leaders condemn attack

Leaders stand for a minute of silence for the victims of the Bastille Day attack, at the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit in Ulan Bator, Mongolia on July 15.
Leaders stand for a minute of silence for the victims of the Bastille Day attack, at the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit in Ulan Bator, Mongolia on July 15. PHOTO: AFP

Asian and European leaders in Mongolia for the biennial Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) have strongly condemned the terror attack in Nice that killed at least 84 and left scores injured.

In a joint statement issued at the start of the two-day summit yesterday, they also expressed sympathy for the people and governments of various countries hit by recent terrorist attacks.

"We... reiterate our strong unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes," they said.

"We strongly condemn the heinous and cowardly terrorist attacks perpetrated, resulting in the unacceptable loss of innocent lives and countless injuries."

Leaders and officials from 51 countries, the European Council, the European Commission and Asean reaffirmed their commitment to join forces to fight terrorism.

Countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East have been rocked by terrorist attacks in recent months.

The latest was Thursday night's attack in France when a truck ploughed through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice.

The tragedy caused the summit to open yesterday with world leaders and government officials sending messages of condolence and condemning the horrific attack.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, attending the summit in Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, joined world leaders and government representatives in observing a minute of silence for the victims and their families.

Later, Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj also called for a minute's silence at a Naadam nomadic festival event held to celebrate Asem's 20th anniversary.

On the summit's sidelines, Mr Lee, who had sent a condolence letter to his French counterpart Manuel Valls, met French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

In his letter, Mr Lee said he was shocked to learn of the attack and added: "Singapore strongly condemns this senseless violence and stands in solidarity with France."

President Tony Tan Keng Yam also wrote to French President Francois Hollande to express Singapore's sympathies and profound sadness at the loss of lives. "The attacks on innocent lives are senseless and unjustifiable," he added.

At a plenary session of the summit, Mr Lee said: "I join my colleagues in expressing my sympathies to the people and government of France, and condolences to the families of the victims."

Terrorism was the talk at the meeting, which was expected to criticise China for rejecting an international tribunal's ruling against its claims in the South China Sea.

China had said, before its Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Mongolia on Thursday, that the issue should be kept off the table.

The South China Sea dispute was expected to feature at Asem, the first big gathering of world and government leaders after the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal sided with the Philippines on Tuesday and said China's claimed historical rights in the waters were illegal.

But the issue was hardly mentioned yesterday. Only the Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Mr Perfecto Yasay, said his country welcomed the ruling.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2016, with the headline 'Asian, European leaders condemn attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe