French President Francois Hollande has called for a global response to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), saying it posed a security threat the world over as he opened a conference on Iraq, bringing together members of a US-led coalition.
“[The threat] is global so the response must be global,” the French leader said, opening a Paris conference of some 30 countries aimed at coordinating a strategy against the group, which has taken control of parts of Northern Iraq and has a power base in Syria.
Foreign ministers from the main European states, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Iraq’s neighbours and Gulf Arab states Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE, are in Paris to discuss broad political, security and humanitarian aspects of tackling ISIL.
“In holding this conference, the countries meeting today are showing their solidarity and the will to protect themselves against terrorism,” Hollande added in a joint news conference with Iraqi President Fouad Massoum.
Massoum said ISIL fighters were responsible for some of the worst atrocities committed in Iraq’s history.
“We should spend more efforts, and therefore we ask to continue the air strikes against the terrorist positions. We will not give them any safe haven,” Massoum added.
Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba, reporting from Paris, said that the statements released by the two leaders were not specific in terms of military action.
“What is really crucial is not who is going to carry out the air strikes but who will provide financial and military assistance. Can it be effective without the involvement of Iran? What we can expect to happen is more and more Arab states will promise cash and soldiers … How many states will provide direct military assistance is the question?”
French officials say the coalition against ISIL must go beyond military and humanitarian action, arguing there must also be a political plan for once IS 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 ISIL’s main power base lies.
On Monday, French aircraft will begin reconnaissance flights over Iraq, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said before the start of the conference in Paris.
“We told the Iraqis we were available and asked them for authorisation [to fly over Iraq],” Fabius told France Inter radio, confirming that the first flights from a French base in Abu Dhabi would begin on Monday.
Ibrahim Sharqieh of the Brookings Institute told Al Jazeera that adding Arab countries to the fight against ISIL was crucial for the legitimacy to the coalition.
“Gulf countries are key in this intervention and they have announced their support,” Sharqieh said.
“The other key country is Jordan. It was no surprise that Francois Hollande mentioned Jordan in his speech because they bring with them many aspects; one is legitimacy, another is intelligence, and finally the strength of security forces and their ability to deal with situation.” Al Jazeera