French President Francois Hollande (2nd R) talks to his Iraqi counterpart (unseen) during their meeting at the Elysee palace, ahead of an international conference to be held at the French Foreign ministry in Paris.- AFP
Paris: French President Francois Hollande called on Monday for united international action to tackle the threat from ISIS militants as he opened a conference on Iraq bringing together members of a US-led coalition.
The United States this week unveiled an outline plan to fight the militants simultaneously in Iraq and Syria. It believes it can forge a solid alliance despite hesitancy among some partners and questions over the legality of action, notably in Syria where the militant group has a power base.
“What is the threat?” the French leader said as he opened the one-day meeting of officials from some 30 states in Paris.
“It is global so the response must be global ... Iraq’s fight against the terrorists is also our fight. We must commit ourselves together - that is the purpose of this conference,” said Hollande, who last week travelled to Baghdad to meet members of Iraq’s new government.
Iraqi President Fuad Masum said he hoped the Paris meeting would bring a “quick response” to militants.
“ISIS’s doctrine is either you support us or kill us . It has committed massacres and genocidal crimes and ethnic purification,” he told delegates.
Iran, which is highly influential in its neighbour Iraq, is not attending the conference.
“We wanted a consensus among countries over Iran’s attendance, but in the end it was more important to have certain Arab states than Iran,” a French diplomat said.
French officials say the coalition plan must go beyond military and humanitarian action, arguing there must also be a political plan for once ISIS has been weakened in Iraq.
They argue that the 2003 US-led intervention in Iraq, in which Paris did not participate, ultimately contributed to the current crisis because it lacked a long-term vision for the different strands of Iraqi society.
France has said it is ready to join US air strikes in Iraq but says legal and military limitations make it more difficult in Syria, where ISIS’s main powerbase lies.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said French aircraft would begin reconnaissance flights over Iraq on Monday.
“We told the Iraqis we were available and asked them for authorisation (to fly over Iraq),” Fabius told France Inter radio.
A French official confirmed two Rafale fighter jets and a refueling aircraft had taken off on Monday for Iraq.
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