ULAN BATOR: Sympathy and condemnation for the Nice attack dominated an Asia-Europe summit in Mongolia Friday, drawing attention away from Beijing’s rejection of a tribunal ruling dismissing its extensive South China Sea claims.
The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), held every two years and which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, is supposed to be a venue for increasing cooperation across the Eurasian region and exploring ways to strengthen global agreements governing everything from trade to civil aviation.
Counter-terrorism efforts were already due to be discussed, but the issue was given renewed urgency by the outrage in Nice, where a truck ploughed into Bastille Day revelers, killing at least 80 in what President Francois Hollande called a “terrorist” attack.
Leaders and representatives of governments from Ireland to Indonesia held a minute’s silence for the victims at the opening of the summit in Ulan Bator.
“It’s a tragic paradox that the subject of this attack were people celebrating liberty, equality and fraternity,” said European Council President Donald Tusk.
“Today we all, Europe and Asia, stand united with the French people and their government. We condemn this tragedy and keep up our fight against extreme violence and hatred.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that “despicable terrorism engulfing innocent people can never be forgiven”, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country “stands alongside France in the fight against terrorism”.
“We are all united in shock,” she said, adding that “words can barely express” the feelings of France’s allies.
France’s foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called the attack a “tragedy” said the leaders had expressed “spontaneous and sincere solidarity towards the French people”.
“The whole world shares France’s ordeal,” he told Agence France-Presse before leaving the summit early to return to France.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also expressed his sympathy for the victims.