Thursday 29 September 2016

World leaders pledge to stand by France and fight extremism

Andreas Rinke and Dmitry Solovyov

Published 16/07/2016 | 02:30

Members of the French community hold a vigil in Sydney. AFP/Getty Images
Members of the French community hold a vigil in Sydney. AFP/Getty Images

World leaders have united in horror and pledged their determination to fight terrorism after the horrific Bastille Day attack in Nice.

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US president Barack Obama, Russian president Vladimir Putin and European and Asian leaders, who were meeting for a summit in Mongolia, all joined in condemnation of the terrorist attack in messages to French president Francois Hollande.

The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, speaking in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, captured the global shock when he tweeted of the “tragic paradox” that the targets were people “celebrating liberty, equality and fraternity”.

Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking on the sidelines of the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Mongolia, said: “All of us who have come together at the ASEM summit are united in our feeling of disbelief at the attack of mass murder in Nice.”

Thursday night’s attack was the third mass killing in Europe by suspected Islamist terrorists in eight months, following on from multiple attack in Paris and Brussels linked to Islamic State.

Britain’s new prime minister, Theresa May, said Britain stood “shoulder to shoulder” with France.

Vladimir Putin, whose relations with the West have been strained over Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria, went on Russian television to convey his condolences to Hollande, having apparently been unable to reach him by telephone.

He said: “Dear Francois, Russia knows what terror is and the threats that it creates for all of us.

“Our people have more than once encountered similar tragedies. Russia is deeply affected by the incident, sympathises with the French people and feels solidarity with them.”

He added that Russian citizens were among the victims in Nice.

Fundamentalism

In another gesture, possibly aimed at healing rifts, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov went to the French embassy in Moscow with the visiting US secretary of state, John Kerry, to lay flowers in memory of the victims.

Italy, Spain, Germany, Britain and Belgium all held separate meetings to review their own security after the Nice attack, which came just after the French had successfully hosted the Euro 2016 tournament, having implemented a massive security operation during it.

Britain and Belgium said their threat levels were already severe, indicating that they regard an attack as “highly likely”.

Germany said it had stepped up border controls at airports, road and rail crossings into France in response, as did Italy.

In France itself, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who is expected to do well in next year’s presidential election, criticised the country’s response to previous attacks.

“The war on the scourge of Islamist fundamentalism has not begun. It is urgent now that it be declared,” Ms Le Pen said on Twitter.

US presidential hopeful Donald Trump also tried to make a political point in reacting to the carnage, tweeting: “Another horrific attack, this time in Nice, France. Many dead and injured. When will we learn? It is only getting worse.”

Poland’s interior minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said the attacks were “consequences of decades of a policy of multiculturalism and political correctness” in the European Union.

Poland’s right-wing nationalist government has refused to take in Muslim migrants and refugees under an EU quota scheme.

In the Middle East, many messages of sympathy and condemnation were laced with domestic agendas.

Turkey’s president, Tayyip Erdogan, whose country was hit just days ago by a co-ordinated gun and bomb attack on Istanbul airport by suspected Isil terrorists, said Turks could understand what France and the French people were now going through.

But in an apparent swipe at EU countries that disapprove of Ankara’s crackdown on Kurdish separatist fighters, Mr Erdogan added: “We expect those who act inconsistently in the face of terror to draw necessary lessons from the most recent attack in France.”

However, while Saudi Arabia’s top clerical body condemned the French attack, it said it should not distract the world from “the crimes of the Syrian regime”.

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