EU leaders urge 'understanding among religions' after knife attack in France

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BRUSSELS (AFP) – EU leaders on Thursday (Oct 29) condemned recent attacks in France and urged the world “to work towards dialogue and understanding among communities and religions, rather than division”.

In a statement issued by EU Council chief Charles Michel, the 27 leaders expressed solidarity with France but made no reference to the controversy over cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed.

“We, European leaders, are shocked and saddened by the terrorist attacks in France,” the statement said.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms these attacks, which represent attacks on our shared values.

“We stand united and firm in our solidarity with France, with the French people and the government of France – in our common and continued fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

“We call on leaders around the world to work towards dialogue and understanding among communities and religions rather than division.”

Earlier Thursday, a man wielding a knife had attacked and killed three people praying inside the Basilica of Notre-Dame in the French city of Nice.

On October 16, another knifeman murdered a French history teacher who had been criticised by Muslim parents for showing pupils caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed during a class discussion.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has defended the right of cartoonists – such as those at Charlie Hebdo – the French satirical magazine that was attacked by Islamist extremists who murdered 12 people in January 2015 – to lampoon religious figures.

But some leaders from the Muslim world, including Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have denounced the cartoons and anti-French demonstrations have erupted in several countries.

The EU message was issued as the leaders began a videoconference to discuss the coronavirus pandemic.

Separately, US President Donald Trump on Thursday expressed solidarity with France after the assault, demanding a halt to terrorist attacks.

“Our hearts are with the people of France. America stands with our oldest Ally in this fight,” he tweeted.

“These Radical Islamic terrorist attacks must stop immediately. No country, France or otherwise can long put up with it!”

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