SYDNEY: Australia on Monday urged more European nations to begin air strikes against Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq as a way of tackling the escalating refugee crisis gripping the continent.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said jihadists were responsible for driving hundreds of thousands of migrants to Europe and a broadening of the coalition fighting them was necessary.
“Over 40 percent of the people currently seeking asylum in Europe are from Syria, and we need a united front to defeat the terrorist organisations that are driving the displacement of so many people,” she told reporters in Sydney.
“Already there are about 60 countries that are providing support in one way or another to the US-led coalition.
“But there’s more countries can do in terms of supporting the air strikes which are proving effective in stopping Daesh (IS) from claiming territory off sovereign governments and from inflicting so much barbaric violence.”
Bishop was even more explicit in an interview with The Australian newspaper, published Monday.
“Countries adjoining Syria and Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and others are bearing the brunt of millions of people fleeing into their borders and then into Europe,” she said.
“That’s why I believe the Europeans must be involved in the coalition air strikes and the effort in Syria and Iraq.”
Only a handful of European nations are currently conducting air strikes against the jihadists, including France and Britain, as part of a coalition of Western and Arab powers.
Australia has six RAAF F/A18 combat jets and two support aircraft, based in the United Arab Emirates, taking part.
While Canberra has been carrying out air strikes in Iraq it has not targeted Syria so far, citing legal concerns, but is considering a request from the United States this month to extend its campaign into the war-torn country.
Bishop separately told Australia’s local Channel that air strikes were a risky proposition.
“Some estimates say there are about 30,000 of these fighters who embed themselves in towns and cities. The difficulty for coalition air strikes is to not hit civilians and so they are limited in what they can do,” she said.
“But Daesh is across both the Syrian and Iraq border. They have claimed that area.
“It’s essentially ungoverned by either the Syrian regime or the Iraqi government. And that’s why there’s this request from the US for Australia to join the coalition that is carrying out air strikes over the Syria-Iraq border.”
European Union home affairs ministers are expected to hold emergency talks on September 14 in Brussels on the continent’s escalating migration crisis, the Luxembourg government said on Sunday.
The number of migrants reaching the EU’s borders reached nearly 340,000 during the first seven months of the year, up from 123,500 during the same period in 2014, according to the bloc’s border agency Frontex.