European Union foreign ministers have called for greater cooperation with mainly Muslim countries in the battle against terrorism. This came with EU countries on high alert following the recent deadly attacks in Paris.
The European Union's foreign policy coordinator, Federica Mogherini, told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday that the bloc would seek to form a broad anti-terror alliance with mainly Muslim countries.
"Terrorism and terrorist attacks are targeting most of all Muslims in the world so we need an alliance," Mogherini said. "We need to strengthen our way of cooperating together, first of all with Arab countries but also internally," she added.
The British foreign secretary Philip Hammond echoed Mogherini's sentiments.
"The Muslim countries of the world are the ones who have suffered the greatest burden of terrorism and they will continue to be in the frontlines," he said. "We have to work closely with them to protect both those countries and the EU countries."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the Paris attacks of had "changed Europe and the world," and that the EU needed to discuss what can be done to combat terrorism, "including possibly increased exchanges with Muslim countries."
Arab League chief receptive
The secretary general of the Cairo-based Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, who was in Brussels for talks with Mogherini, appeared rececptive to the idea.
"It is not just a military or security issue, it covers the intellectual, cultural, media and religious spheres and that is what we are trying to get," he said.
On the other hand, he also warned that there were bound to be limitations to the sort of cooperation that could be offered, depending upon the situation in any given state. He also noted that some Muslim governments were frustrated by the EU's repeated criticism of the human rights situation in their countries.
In a separate development, Mogherini also announced on Monday that the EU would appeal a ruling by the bloc's General Court last month, forcing it to remove the Palestinian militant group Hamas from its list of terrorist groups.
Soldiers on the streets
As the foreign ministers met in the EU's headquarters in Brussels, soldiers patrolled the streets of the Belgian capital and other cities in the country, where security forces launched a series of raids last week in an operation that police said had thwarted a major terrorist attack.
France also deployed troops to the streets of Paris and other cities in the wake of the attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a hostage taking at a kosher grocery store that left 17 people dead almost two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, police in the German city of Dresden have banned all open air gatherings for this Monday, preventing a weekly march of the PEGIDA anti-Islamization movement, citing a "concrete threat" of an attack on one of its leaders.
pfd/bw (AP, AFP, dpa)