France and Russia to join forces against Islamic State

Germany to join campaign, Cameron calls for air strikes in Syria

Suspected Russian military jets carry out air strikes as they fly in formation over northern Syria - video posted online purports to show. Video: Reuters

 

French president Francois Hollande has said Russia and France will co-ordinate their military strikes against Islamic State.

Speaking after talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, Mr Hollande emphasised his own view that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has no place in the country’s future.

He called for the formation of a transitional government that would draft a new constitution and hold elections.

Mr Putin confirmed that Moscow and France had agreed to co-ordinate the work of their militaries and enhance their exchange of information.

The Russian premier said Mr Assad’s fate should be decided by the people in his country.

Mr Putin called the Syrian army a “natural ally” of any international coalition fighting IS, and added that he and Mr Hollande had agreed to avoid striking any groups fighting the Islamic extremists.

Germany will join the military campaign against Islamic State in Syria by deploying Tornado reconnaissance jets, refuelling aircraft and a frigate to the region, after a direct appeal from France for Berlin to do more.

The decision to commit military personnel and hardware is a shift for Germany, which has resisted such direct involvement in the conflict. It still has no plans to join France, the United States and Russia in conducting air strikes in Syria.

“Today the government took difficult but important and necessary decisions,” Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told reporters after meeting MPs in Berlin. “We are standing with France, which was hit by these inhuman attacks from IS.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel promised the support, which must still be approved by parliament, during talks with Mr Hollande in Paris on Wednesday.

Berlin expects to commit four to six Tornado jets, provide satellite support, refuelling planes and a frigate to help protect the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which the French navy has sent to the eastern Mediterranean to support air strikes in both Syria and Iraq.

Meanwhile, British prime minister David Cameron said on Thursday it was time to take a decision to join air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria, arguing that Britain cannot “subcontract its security to other countries”.

“That is why I believe that we should now take the decision to extend British air strikes against ISIL (Islamic State) into Syria, as an integral part of our comprehensive strategy to degrade ISIL and reduce the threat it poses to us,” he wrote in a response to parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

The prime minister set out his case for the extension of RAF airstrikes from Iraq into Syria in a written response to a parliamentary committee which had urged caution over the move.

Mr Cameron acknowledged that airstrikes alone will not be enough to defeat Isis but said they would help to degrade the group’s military capability and halt its advance.

He rejected the idea that joining the US, France and other nations in bombing Isis in its Syrian strongholds would put Britain at risk of a Paris-style terror attacks, saying that the threat to the UK was already “very high”.

He also told the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee: “One thing is clear: the threats to our interests and to our people are such that we cannot afford to stand aside and not to act.”

Agencies