Netherlands to join US-led air strikes in Syria: Official

AFP , Friday 29 Jan 2016

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte explains the cabinet decision to extend its campaign to extend Dutch air strikes from Iraq into Eastern Syria during a press conference after a cabinet meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 (Photo: AP)

The Netherlands has agreed to join US-led air strikes in Syria extending its current mission over Iraq, Dutch officials announced Friday, bowing to a request from the United States.

"In order to make the fight against ISIS in Iraq more efficient, it has been decided to carry out air strikes against ISIS in eastern Syria," the foreign and defence ministries said in a statement.

Late last year in the wake of the November Paris attacks, the Dutch government received a request from allies the US and France to broaden its campaign of air support against the ISIS 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.

But it had insisted in the past that it would not extend the air strikes over Syria without a UN mandate.

"We are going to deploy the F-16s above Syria, in particular to stop the pipeline leading from Syria into Iraq," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters Friday.

The four Dutch F-16 jet fighters which have been pounding ISIS in Iraq since October 2014 would "remain active until July 1 over the enlarged zone," the government statement said.

"We are convinced that only a consistent approach to bring back stability in Iraq and Syria," said Foreign Minister Bert Koenders added in the statement.

But he insisted there had to be the utmost "care and accuracy."

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, paving the way for approval from parliament.

High-stakes peace talks aimed at ending the brutal, five-year-old Syrian conflict which has left over 260,000 dead and created millions of refugees were due to start later Friday in Geneva.

But there was uncertainty whether the key groups would attend, even though the Syrian government delegation had arrived in the Swiss city.

Short link: