France plans to bolster its fight against "IS" in Syria, saying ending that war was key to solving the refugee crisis. Meanwhile, France and Germany are to receive over 20,000 more refugees each under new EU quotas.
The EU executive drew up a new set of interim national quotas on Monday under which Germany would take in more than 40,000 and France 30,000 of a total of 160,000 asylum-seekers currently residing in Italy, Greece and Hungary.
The news came as French President Francois Hollande announced the introduction of reconnaissance flights over Syria to help inform US-led airstrikes against the "Islamic State" group, adding that coping with the flow of refugees in Europe required resolve in dealing with the problem of terrorism. Hollande explained that terror attacks had been planned from Syria against several countries, including France.
"France has always faced its responsibilities when faced with terrorism," Hollande said, citing the country's involvement in Mali as one example.
French President Hollande linked the influx of refugees across Europe to the war in Syria and the rise of IS
He later added, however, that it would be "unrealistic" to send French troops into Syria to be deployed on the ground as part of France's military involvement there, "because we would be alone."
Hollande also told reporters at a press conference in Paris that the eventual departure of Syrian leader Bashar al Assad would have to be part of a solution in the country in the long run.
"Eventually Bashar al Assad will have to leave," Hollande stressed.
Root cause of refugee crisis: war
The French president emphasized that the root cause of the refugee crisis was war, leading to the rise of extremist groups, such as IS.
"We must fight terrorism. In France, the national alert system has been taken to the highest level because of this," Hollande said.
"The People [who are] responsible for France need to make choices not only for France, but also for Europe and for the world. We need to strengthen the countries of transit along the Mediterranean to keep refugees safe there. We will also be sending more boats into the Mediterranean to save migrants."
Comparison with German reunification
Hollande set forth several strategic points to help alleviate some of the pressures of the refugee crisis. He compared the current situation to the fall communism in Eastern Europe in 1989:
"When the Berlin Wall came down, no one said 'take your time.' We said "come, you are Europeans. You are going to build the union you want to build with us,'" Hollande announced at the news conference.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is due to unveil further such proposals on Wednesday. EU officials have said he would propose adding 120,000 people to be relocated on top of a group of 40,000 that the commission had previously proposed relocating. Leading the quotas among the 120,000, of which 54,000 would come from Hungary, Germany would be asked to take in 31,443 and France 24,031.
ss/kms (AP, Reuters)