France awaits Spain’s proposal for supporting fight against Islamic State

Madrid has yet to make a clear offer after backtracking on plans to bolster Mali contingent

Guillermo Altares
French soldiers at the Radisson hotel in Bamako.
French soldiers at the Radisson hotel in Bamako.Joe Penney (reuters)

The French government is waiting for Spain to explain how it plans to cooperate in the fight against the Islamic State, shortly after the European Union activated a mutual defense clause at France’s request.

French President François Hollande and his defense minister were scheduled to embark on a tour of the US and Russia on Tuesday to forge an international coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS), in the wake of the terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris.

France said that it has already received specific proposals for help from several European nations, but is still waiting for a response from Spain.

Madrid argued that France had not made any specific requests, and so it was pointless to “speculate” about Spain’s contribution to the fight against ISIS

Last Thursday, sources close to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told EL PAÍS that the government stood ready to increase Spain’s contingent in Africa, particularly in Mali and the Central African Republic, to relieve French troops for action in Syria.

But on Friday, just one hour after the attack on a Bamako hotel that left 27 hostages and 13 terrorists dead, Madrid issued a strong denial, claiming that it had never made any offer and that it was not contemplating sending more troops to Mali.

The executive argued that France had not made any specific requests, and so it was pointless to “speculate” about Spain’s contribution to the fight against ISIS.

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However, on a television interview aired on Thursday evening on 13TV, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo had mentioned the possibility of bolstering the Spanish military presence in Africa’s Sahel area, where radical Islam is making inroads.

Now it appears that France is not going to ask, but rather is waiting for Spain to step forward with a proposal of its own.

“Let’s see what the Spanish propose,” said French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Radio Europe 1. “Evidently, if European forces come out in support of French ones and relieve them [in Mali], that’s as it should be, that is European defense policy in action.”

“Every member state has announced that it is going to help us, and we are drawing up a list of proposals and individual situations in order to obtain specific results,” he added.

English version by Susana Urra.

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