EU calls for closer ties with Arab states to tackle terrorism

European Union’s foreign policy chief urges broad alliance with the Arab countries to face the threat of extremists.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius talks with British foreign secretary Philip Hammond and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini during an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on January 19. AFP Photo
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BRUSSELS // The European Union on Monday called for an antiterror alliance with Arab countries to boost cooperation and information-sharing after deadly attacks and arrests across Europe.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the 28-nation bloc plans to deploy security attaches with certain delegations to promote better antiterror contacts with authorities in countries in the Middle East, the Gulf and North Africa.

The EU also wants to help certain countries build the capacity to combat terrorism and improve intercultural understanding with Muslims, in part by developing Arabic language skills.

“We need an alliance. We need to strengthen our way of co-operating together,” Ms Mogherini told reporters as the bloc’s foreign ministers met Brussels.

Some ministers emphasised the importance of working with Muslim countries, rather than blaming them for the problem of foreign fighters.

Muslim nations “will continue to be in the front line, and we have to work closely with them to protect both those countries and the European Union countries,” British foreign secretary Philip Hammond said.

Ms Mogherini and some ministers also urged the European parliament to move forward on sharing airline passenger information between EU countries.

Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders said the police raids in his country last week to break up a suspected network of foreign fighters demonstrated that information-sharing is the key to success.

“We have to exchange information in Europe and outside Europe to really follow what is going on and to prevent any acts that could be launched on our territory,” he said.

Belgium deployed the military over the weekend to guard public buildings. As the ministers met, soldiers walked the perimeter of the European Council building.

Many ministers said the real answer is to help end the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

“That is what, long-term, will provide stability and security in this region and address the root causes of terrorism and radicalisation,” said Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstroem.

* Associated Press