Australia has confirmed its participation in the US-led coalition against the ISIS militant group in Syria.
Speaking on Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that “destroying this death cult is essential, not just to ending the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East but also to ending the threat to Australia and the wider world.”
However, Abbott ruled out extending air strike operations to target Bashar Assad’s regime forces, saying "we are exercising the right to collective self-defence under Article 51 of the UN charter in striking Daesh [ISIS] in Syria."
“We have no legal basis at this point in time for wider strikes in Syria and we don’t intend to make wider strikes in Syria.”
Australia is already participating as a member of the coalition but has to date limited its operations to Iraq, where it has contributed six RAAF/A18 combat jets and two support aircraft.
Abbott said he had decided to extend Australia’s role in the air strike campaign in Syria, upon receiving a request from the US, adding that ISIS cannot be defeated in Iraq without defeating it in Syria.
The US-led coalition started air strikes in Syria and Iraq against ISIS targets last September after ISIS militants broke through the Sykes-Picot border dividing the two countries.
For over a year, ISIS militants maintained control of large territories seized in both Iraq and Syria, including Iraq’s second largest city Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, which they have established as the de facto capital of their self-proclaimed state.
France also announced on Monday its plans to join the US-led campaign against ISIS in Syria, which also includes the air force of Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.