France, Russia, US seek to tighten noose around IS group
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Russian president Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered the Russian navy in the Mediterranean to establish contact with its French counterparts and work together “as allies” to intensify their campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria.
Speaking four days after gunmen and bombers linked to the Islamic State (IS) group killed at least 129 people in Paris, Putin ordered the Russian navy to establish contact with a French aircraft carrier due to arrive in the region and to treat them as allies.
FRANCE24’s chief foreign editor Rob Parsons said that such military cooperation could be a game changer if Western powers and Russia eventually agree on what should happen to the Assad regime in Damascus.
“If [the French and the Russians] are going to cooperate together, they’ll presumably have to coordinate their targeting (…) It’s extremely complicated, it all goes out to the heart of the problem of finding a joint solution on Syria”, said Parsons.
In footage broadcast earlier on Tuesday, the Russian president had vowed to hunt down those responsible for blowing up a Russian airliner over Egypt and intensify air strikes against Islamists in Syria, after the Kremlin concluded a bomb had destroyed the plane last month, killing 224 people onboard.
Tightening the noose around IS
Putin, visiting the defence ministry’s command centre in Moscow on Tuesday evening, was told by military chiefs that the air force had carried out around 2,300 sorties in Syria in the last 48 days. Moscow also said that 25 extra long-range bombers would be sent to Syria.
The Russian military reinforcements come as the French military launched a third wave of air strikes on Raqqa.
“At this moment, our air force ... 10 fighter jets are again hitting Raqqa, and as you know tomorrow the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle will leave for the eastern Mediterranean to continue strikes on specific targets, in particular around Raqqa and Deir ez-Zour,” French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told TF1 television channel.
The US and Turkey are also tightening the noose around the IS-held zones in northern Syria. US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that an operation with Turkish forces was under way to finish securing the northern Syrian border. The aim is to deprive IS militants of a smuggling route which has seen its ranks swell with foreign fighters and its coffers boosted by illicit trade.
Hollande is due to travel to Washington on November 24 and then to Moscow on November 26 in order to discuss plans for a grand coalition, that includes the United States and Russia, to eradicate the IS group in Syria.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS, AP)