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World leaders vow to step up anti-terror efforts

World leaders expressed concern at the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 November, 2015

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World leaders vowed to boost intelligence-sharing, cut off terrorist funding and strengthen border security in Europe, as they sought to show resolve and unity following the deadly Paris terror attacks.

Leaders of the world's top 20 economies on Monday urged all nations to respond to a worldwide refugee crisis following a two-day summit in Turkey.

"We call upon all states to contribute to responding to this crisis, and share in the burdens associated with it," they said in a final communique after a two-day Group of 20 gathering in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya.

The leaders wrapped up the summit against the backdrop of heavy French bombardment of the Islamic State's stronghold in Syria.

The bombings marked a significant escalation of France's role in the fight against the extremist group.  

World leaders raised the alarm over an escalating international movement of "foreign terrorist fighters" in a draft statement drawn up on Sunday at a summit in Turkey after the Paris assaults claimed by the Islamic State group [IS].

'Resolute stance' against terror

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the "resolute stance" against terror adopted by leaders at the summit.

"G20 leaders agreed to show our resolute stance in the fight against terrorism," Erdogan said, adding that the "strong position" against terror was one of the most important outcomes of the summit.

Numerous meetings about next steps in Syria and the Islamic State campaign were held on the sidelines.

French President Francois Hollande skipped the summit to stay home and deal with the aftermath of the attacks, but Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius planned to attend the meeting with the US president.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key player in ending the conflict in Syria that created a vacuum for the Islamic State group, met separately with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and British Prime Minister David Camerson. 

Putin and Cameron both emphasised the need for joint action against terrorism in the wake of Paris terror attack.

"The latest tragic events in Paris show that we have to unite our efforts in fighting this evil, something we should have done long time ago," Putin said. 

Russia launched an air campaign in Syria a month-and-half ago, with the Islamic State group as the top declared target.

The US and its allies, however, have accused Moscow of focusing on other rebel groups in a bid to shore up Syria's leader Bashar al-Assad, whom the West sees as the main cause of the Syrian conflict and the chief obstacle to peace.

The Vienna talks

Ahead of the G20, foreign ministers met in Vienna to discuss a new diplomatic plan to end the Syrian war.

The plan appears to be based largely on a Russian proposal that envisions negotiations between Assad's government and opposition groups starting by 1 January.

Still, sharp differences over Assad's future and disagreements about what militant groups in Syria should be considered terrorists have dampened hopes for a breakthrough.

The Vienna talks were high on the agenda when Obama and Putin met huddled for about 35 minutes Monday on the sidelines of the G20.

Obama appeared to take a softer tone with Putin in the talks, noting "the importance of Russia's military efforts" aimed at IS, according to a White House readout of the meeting. 

Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said the leaders share similar "strategic goals" for defeating the Islamic State extremists "but tactical differences remain."

Obama also met with Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Sunday, another key player in the effort to end the Syrian war.

The Saudis have pushed strongly for the ousting of Assad and have funded his foes. Putin is set to have talks Monday with the Saudi king, who is scheduled to visit Moscow soon.

Amid the diplomatic wrangling, the shock over the Paris attacks that killed at least 129 people raised the demand for quick action.

IS 'strengthening'

The attacks in Paris, along with earlier bombings in Lebanon and Turkey, as well as the downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt, indicated that the Islamic State group has grown bold enough to strike a variety of targets far away from its base in Syria and Iraq.

In Turkey, five police officers were injured Sunday when a suicide bomber blew himself up during a police raid on a suspected IS hideout near the Syrian border. Turkish security forces also rounded up 20 suspected IS militants in and around Antalya before the summit. 

While US officials said Obama viewed the attacks in France as an act of war, they cautioned he had no plans to overhaul his strategy for dismantling the IS and said he remained staunchly opposed to an American ground war in Syria.

Instead, they foreshadowed an expansion of steps the US is already taking, namely airstrikes and train-and-equip missions for rebels inside Syria. 

Response 'within the law'

Speaking at the summit earlier on Sunday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the response to the Paris attacks should be "robust, but always within the rule of law." 

Ban said the response must respect human rights, "Otherwise we will only fan the fire we are trying to put out."

The discovery of a Syrian passport near the body of one of the Paris attackers has raised fears that some of the assailants might have entered Europe as part of the huge influx of people fleeing Syria's civil war.

Greek and Serbian authorities have confirmed the passport belonged to a man who registered as a refugee in October on the island of Leros and applied for asylum in Serbia a few days later. 

It is now known that three of the suicide bombers were French nationals, but two of them had also lived in the Belgian capital Brussels

In Turkey, police detained dozens of people in Antalya on Sunday at protests denouncing the G20 summit, although the demonstrations were mostly peaceful.

A group of some 500 youths belonging to a Turkish nationalist association gathered in the city, holding up card-board effigies of US President Barack Obama and denouncing US interventions in the Middle East. Police allowed the group to march briefly only after they agreed to leave the effigies behind.
 

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