As British jets opened airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria and Germany prepared to send troops and aircraft to the region, Russia’s president yesterday called on the world to brandish “one powerful fist” in the fight against terrorism.
Hours after Britain’s parliament authorised military action in Syria, its Tornado warplanes struck oil fields in eastern Syria that help finance IS.
“This strikes a very real blow at the oil and the revenue on which the Daesh terrorists depend,” Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
Bearing down on Islamic State will require patience and persistence, David Cameron warned, as British forces geared up for further attacks against IS militants.
Both the US-led coalition and Russian warplanes have struck the extremists’ oil facilities and Russia has drawn heated international attention to the issue by accusing Turkish authorities of profiting from oil trade with IS, allegations Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has strongly denied.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his state-of-the-nation address, accused Turkey of “a treacherous war crime” and bitingly suggested “Allah must have punished Turkey’s ruling clique by depriving it of sense and reason.”
Putin also accused Washington and its allies of turning Iraq, Syria, and Libya into a “zone of chaos and anarchy, threatening the entire world” by supporting regime change in those countries.
“We must leave all arguments and disagreements behind and make one powerful fist, a single anti-terror front, which would work on the basis of international law under the aegis of the United Nations,” Putin said.
In Syria, Russian troops moved to fortify their positions and expand a military base.
Germany yesterday prepared to send reconnaissance aircraft to the Middle East as coalition forces stepped up efforts to fight the militants.
In all, up to 1,200 German soldiers would be deployed to support the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group.
Two Tornados and a tanker could be sent to Turkey’s Incirlik air base next week if the German parliament approves the mission today as expected.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said the mission would have three components: to protect French naval operations, to provide intelligence though reconnaissance aircraft and satellite observation, and to offer logistical support like in-air refueling for allied planes.
“The goal... is to fight and contain IS, and destroy their safe havens and their ability to lead worldwide terror operations,” she told reporters in Berlin before heading to Ankara for talks with her Turkish counterpart.
In a statement yesterday, French President Francois Hollande said Britain’s approval of airstrikes and the upcoming German vote were a sign that Europeans would stand together after the November 13 attacks in Paris .
French fighter jets joined the US-led coalition against IS extremists in Iraq in 2014 and expanded their mission to IS in Syria in September.
Other European officials also appealed for a joint global response. Diplomats at an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference in Belgrade said yesterday that only a unified front could be effective in countering the threat of terrorism.
German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier described the situation as “too dangerous, and freedom and stability too fragile, for us to counter each other”, an apparent reference to the spat caused by last week’s downing of the Russian plane by Turkey.
But international cohesion remained elusive as Putin again accused Turkey of profiting from oil trade with IS.
“We know who in Turkey are filling their pockets and allowing terrorists to earn money by selling oil stolen from Syria,” Putin said in his state of the union address.
“For that money the bandits are recruiting mercenaries, buying weapons and staging cruel terror attacks aimed against our citizens, as well as citizens of France, Lebanon, Mali and other countries,” he said.
The Russian and Turkish foreign ministers met in Belgrade on the sidelines of the OSCE meeting, the first senior-level meeting since the incident, but the exchange was frosty.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he offered his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, condolences over the death of a Russian pilot, adding: “It would be unrealistic to say that the problem has been overcome.”
“Our hope is that they avoid making unfounded claims,” he said.
Meanwhile, a poll by Sky News found more than two-fifths (43%) of the public said the strikes make them feel less safe. In London, this rose to more than half (57%) of those questioned.
Only one in five (20%) participants in the Sky Data Snap poll said they felt safer..