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France demands EU support in operations against ISIS

BRUSSELS — France invoked a never-before-used European Union ‘‘mutual-defense clause’’ to demand Tuesday that its partners provide support for its operations against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq and other security missions in the wake of the Paris attacks.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said all 27 of France’s EU partners responded positively.

‘‘Every country said: I am going to assist, I am going to help,’’ he said.

Speaking at an EU defense ministers’ meeting, Le Drian noted France’s military burden in northern Africa, the Central African Republic and Lebanon, and the need to provide national security while a state of emergency is in place.


He said EU partners could help ‘‘either by taking part in France’s operations in Syria or Iraq, or by easing the load or providing support for France in other operations.’’

Article 42.7 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty states that if a member country ‘‘is the victim of armed aggression on its territory,’’ other members have ‘‘an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power.’’

The clause is similar to, but less far-reaching than, NATO’s Article 5, which designates an attack on one ally as an attack on them all, and was invoked by the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. It’s the only time Article 5 has been used.

Nonetheless, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said Tuesday that ‘‘France has been attacked, so the whole of Europe has been attacked.’’

‘‘This is Sept. 11 for Europe,’’ Greek Defense Minister Panagiotis Kammenos told reporters in Brussels.

Britain, Finland and Sweden immediately said they stand ready to help but Czech Republic Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky said he doesn’t expect any French requests for troops.

However, Germany and Italy ruled out any role in the air campaign against IS in Syria. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said ‘‘it doesn’t make sense if we add to the 16 nations which are carrying out air attacks.’’


Germany is providing weapons and equipment to Kurdish fighters battling IS in northern Iraq. Steinmeier said it ‘‘was the right strategy’’ because they are holding ground and making ‘‘slight territorial gains.’’

Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said her country was already planning to beef up its actions in Iraq. While ruling out an Italian military role in Syria, she said Italy ‘‘assured France of its maximum availability’’ in other cooperation.

France chose to take the EU route on security aid because the meeting had already been scheduled, meaning that it could move more quickly than through NATO, which only takes decisions unanimously.

Paris already has good backing in Syria and Iraq from NATO heavyweights of the U.S., Britain and Turkey and does not need support from smaller members.

French President Francois Hollande is going to Washington next week for talks with President Barack Obama on coordinating efforts against IS, then will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Nov. 26 to discuss Syria.

John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels, Frances D’Emilio in Rome and Meneleos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus contributed to this report.