A Swedish soldier on board HMS Visby. Photo: TT Yvonne Åsell/SvD/TT
UPDATED: European ministers have backed a French request for help in defeating Isis, following Friday's Paris terror attacks. But Sweden has said it is unclear what its role will be.
After France's President Francois Hollande declared that his country was "at war" with Isis over the weekend, his Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian asked other EU states for help with its military operations abroad and for support in its fight against Isis in Syria and Iraq.
"Today the EU through the voices of all the member states unanimously expressed its strongest full support and readiness to give the assistance needed," she told a press conference in Brussels, alongside Le Drian.
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven confirmed to reporters that his country backed the plea for help, but said that what Sweden could offer would depend on the exact nature of any formal request from France.
"We are not at war, but we stand together with France and the EU," he said. "But they haven't said yet what they want help with, so let us get back to that."
It is understood that France will contact EU states individually today to ask for assistance.
French president Francois Hollande (left) and his Defence Minister Jean Yves Le Drian, snapped earlier this month. Photo: Ian Langsdon/TT
Earlier in the day Pezhman Fivrin, Press Secretary to Sweden's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, was also asked if the Nordic nation would offer assistance.
"We must consider that. We stand behind France at this difficult time," he said.
France's appeal came after Friday's bloodshed in Paris – the worst ever terror attacks on French soil.
The country's Defence Minister Le Drian invoked article 42-7 in the EU treaties that provides for the solidarity of member states in the event of an attack on one of them.
It is the first time that a European Union member state has invoked the article, which is similar to Nato's article five which the United States activated after the attacks on the US on September 11th 2001, which triggered the alliance's intervention in Afghanistan.
Jacob Westberg, Senior Lecturer in Security Policy and Strategy at the National Defence College in Stockholm told TT that the nature of the article was such that Sweden would be granted some flexibility in its response.
"Stockholm will decide how Sweden should act," he said.
But he added: "The article is relatively clear and says that states must contribute by all available means. Hollade is trying this track and it will be interesting to see how other countries respond."
Sweden – which is not part of Nato – has already sent around 35 soldiers to train Kurdish forces in Iraq to tackle Isis fighters. Earlier this month Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said that their mission could be extended
until December 2016.
The head of the service, Anders Thornberg, told Sveriges Radio (Radio Sweden): “I do not want to say exactly what we are doing, it is important that the French lead this investigation and take information. But we have people in place and we have an exchange of information.”