European leaders to show solidarity at Paris attacks rally

9th January 2015, Comments 0 comments

European leaders will make an extraordinary show of support for France by joining a mass rally in Paris this weekend, amid a wave of solidarity following after the bloody end to the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Global outrage and offers of assistance poured in after French police killed Islamist gunmen in two sieges in the Paris region.

The horror was so universal that even foes of the west North Korea and Cuba sent condolences, while bitter enemies Israel and Iran were at least united in their condemnation of the slaughter.

The latest attacks prompted vigils in several cities around the world to declare "Je suis Charlie" in a show of support for free speech.

Prime ministers David Cameron and Mariano Rajoy of Britain and Spain, whose countries have suffered major terror attacks in the past decade, were among the first to say they would attend.

Cameron said Sunday's rally would be celebrate "the values behind Charlie Hebdo".

The leaders of Germany, Italy, Belgium, Portugal, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Ukraine also said they would attend.

European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said they would attend the Paris rally as well, accompanied by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.

The global reaction in some ways mirrors the outpouring of support after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, when French newspaper "Le Monde" announced on its front page "Today, we are all Americans."

World leaders condemned the 9/11 attacks and offered aid, while mourners piled flowers at US embassies and Buckingham Palace played the US national anthem at the changing of the guard.

- Israel, Iran, Hezbollah condemn -

French police on Friday stormed a print works north of Paris where the two brothers who attacked Charlie Hebdo were holed up, killing both in a hail of automatic fire.

The attack Wednesday on the magazine, which has published cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, left 12 dead.

Heavily armed police also raided a kosher supemarket where an alleged associate of the brothers had taken hostages, killing the gunman. Four hostages were found dead, but others were rescued.

Fresh condemnation of the attacks came from around the world -- including from opposing sides of ideological and strategic divides.

"I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow," said US President Barack Obama, describing France as America's "oldest ally."

Britain's Prince Harry signed a book of condolence in London.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered condolences and aid over what the country earlier called a "terrorist offensive," while also asking France to maintain tight security on Jewish sites "even after things return to normal."

"Our hearts are with the families of the victims. Israel offers you any help that France may need," Israeli government sources told AFP, following a telephone conversation between Netanyahu and French President Francois Hollande

Israel's sworn enemies Iran and Hezbollah also condemned the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, saying they harmed the cause of Muslims around the world.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said "violence and terrorism is reprehensible whether in this region, in Europe or in the United States."

The chief of the powerful Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, said Sunni jihadists have caused more offence to Muslims than any book, cartoon or film.

"Through their shameful, heinous, inhumane and cruel words and acts, (these groups) have offended the prophet, religion... the holy book and the Muslim people more than any other enemy," said Nasrallah in a televised speech.

- North Korea condolences -

North Korea, which has been accused of hacking Sony Pictures over a controversial movie about leader Kim Jong-Un, also condemned the attacks on Charlie Hebdo.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong issued a message of condolence through the state news agency in which he "reaffirmed the principled stand of the DPRK to oppose all sorts of terrorism."

Cuba, which has also been accused by rights groups of suppressing freedom of speech, similarly paid respect.

"President Raul Castro sent a message of condolence to president Hollande for the terrorist attack," a foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

The rallies that have drawn thousands of people together in cities around the world in support of Charlie Hebdo continued too.

In Istanbul, dozens of Turkish journalists gathered to call for journalistic freedom.

"The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists wore the flag of freedom of thought with the greatest of courage," said Ercan Akyol, a newspaper cartoonist.

Several dozen Muslims gathered outside Vienna's main mosque after Friday prayers with placards reading "No to Terror" and "Not in my name".

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban condemned the "barbaric, brutal attack", adding that it was "especially poignant that this happened so close to us, in the European Union."

But the head of the far-right Jobbik party, Gabor Vona, called for tougher immigration controls, saying that a "new era began on Wednesday" when "terrorism immigrated into Europe".


© 2015 AFP

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