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Baltic Leaders Balk At Anti-IS Coalition With Russia

The presidents of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have said their countries will not participate in any antiterrorism coalition if it includes neighboring Russia.

The three leaders made the announcement on November 20 after a meeting in the Lithuanian town of Palanga.

Earlier, French President Francois Hollande called for such a coalition to combat the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, following the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.

On November 19, Russia said it was willing to participate in such a coalition.

"Lithuania will not take part in any new coalition in which Russia will participate or would like to participate," Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said. "To this day, Russia is occupying the territory of one country and committing acts of war in two countries: Ukraine and Georgia."

Latvian President Raimond Vejonis said the fight against IS "should not take our attention from Ukraine."

Tensions between Russia and the West have run high since Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in March 2014 and began aiding and supplying separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said he has doubts about "any coalition that would involve an aggressor like our neighbor."

The three Baltic countries are members of NATO and the European Union.

Based on reporting by AFP and

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