WASHINGTON & PARIS – The United States and France agreed on concrete steps to ramp up the fight against Islamic State during a phone call between U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian, the Pentagon said in a statement on Sunday.
“They agreed on concrete steps the U.S. and French militaries should take to further intensify our close cooperation in prosecuting a sustained campaign against (Islamic State),” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.
Carter reiterated the United States was committed to supporting France and moving together, he said, to make sure Islamic States is “dealt a lasting defeat.”
On Friday night, several sites around Paris were targeted in a coordinated assault by gunmen and bombers in what the Paris public prosecutor said killed 129 people. Islamic State on Saturday claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Sarkozy: ‘We need everyone’
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy called on Sunday for the creation of a single international coalition to combat Islamic State in Syria following attacks in Paris that claimed 129 lives.
Islamic State, also known as Daech, claimed responsibility for the worst such attacks seen on French soil, carried out late on Friday at a concert, hall, stadium and restaurants.
“We must draw on the consequences of the situation in Syria. We need everyone in order to exterminate Daech, including the Russians. There cannot be two coalitions in Syria,” Sarkozy, told journalists after meeting President Francois Hollande.
He was referring to concerns about the fact that both Russia and the U.S.-led coalition of which France is a part are operating in parallel in Syria – both with the stated aim of knocking out Islamic State but with differing approaches and divergent views on how to solve the conflict.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin said earlier on Sunday in Belek, Turkey on the sidelines of a G20 meeting that it was too early to speak of a rapprochement between Russia and the West after the attacks in Paris.
Russia has for weeks been carrying out air strikes in Syria in support of Assad’s forces. But Western powers say those strikes have mainly targeted armed groups other than Islamic State, such as pro-Western rebel militias.
The conservative Sarkozy, widely expected to run for president in 2017, said he also told Hollande that Europe need a new immigration and security policy, and had to toughen laws on all those who visit radical Islamist websites and those suspected of traveling to join jihadist activities.
Photo: Nicolas Sarkozy, former president and current head of the Les Republicains political party, speakst to journalists following a meeting with French President Francois Hollande (not pictured) at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Sunday. | REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer