Dutch to discuss joining Syria air strikes 'within days'

27th January 2016, Comments 0 comments

The Dutch cabinet will discuss a US request to join coalition air strikes against jihadists in Syria within "the coming days", Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said, amid speculation a decision may come as early as Friday.

"The cabinet will now decide. We'll discuss it in the coming days," Koenders told Dutch news programme Nieuwsuur late Tuesday night.

Late last year the Dutch government received a request from its allies the United States and France to broaden its campaign of air support against the Islamic State group from Iraq into Syria.

After weeks of dallying, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, the Labour Party (PvdA), Tuesday finally agreed to back an extension of air strikes into Syria, apparently ensuring there is now a parliamentary majority in favour of such a move.

Koenders, who is from the major coalition partner the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), stressed however that despite the bombings a political solution was essential to end the country's brutal five-year war that has left more than 260,000 dead and forced millions from their homes.

"There has to be a political process, however fragile that may be. You can't just bomb the IS away," Koenders told Nieuwsuur on the sidelines of talks with the UN in New York, referring to the Islamic State (IS) group.

The Netherlands is already participating in the coalition by carrying out air strikes in Iraq with four F-16 aircraft specialising in close air support of ground operations by Iraqi forces.

The four Dutch F-16 jet fighters have been pounding IS jihadists in Iraq since October 2014, but The Hague at the time said it would not move into Syria without a UN mandate.

PvdA parliamentary leader Diederik Samsom said his party would now support air operations over Syria because it believed UN peace talks, due to begin in Geneva on Friday, had cleared the way for a proper mandate.

The decision to support the bombings was "not taken lightly," Samsom told Dutch media.

The Dutch cabinet will meet Friday with local media reports saying a decision could be announced by Prime Minister Mark Rutte shortly afterwards.


© 2016 AFP

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