PARIS: World leaders condemned fatal stabbings in the French city of Nice Thursday that France called an Islamist terrorist attack.
Condemnation came from US President Donald Trump, UN chief Antonio Guterres, as well as European, Arab and Israeli leaders.
“Our hearts are with the people of France. America stands with our oldest Ally in this fight,” Trump tweeted. “These Radical Islamic terrorist attacks must stop immediately. No country, France or otherwise can long put up with it!“
One of the first to condemn was Turkey, embroiled in a row with France over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that have triggered a wave of attacks against French people.
“We strongly condemn the attack committed today inside the Notre-Dame church in Nice,” a Turkish foreign ministry statement said.
It expressed solidarity with France, and offered condolences to relatives of the three people killed in the attack.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also condemned the attack, while adding that “peace cannot be achieved with ugly provocation.”
Elsewhere in the Middle East, Arab and Islamic leaders drew a clear distinction between their religion and violent acts that claimed to defend it.
Egypt’s foreign ministry said it “stands as a government and people with... France in combating this hateful incident.”
Qatar voiced strong condemnation and reiterated its rejection of violence and terrorism, especially against places of worship and regardless of the motives.
Lebanese prime minister designate Saad Hariri urged Muslims “to reject this criminal act that has nothing to do with Islam or the Prophet.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed the killing as “an attack on liberty. When we think of France, we think of liberty. And we stand with the people of France.”
European Union leaders quickly expressed solidarity with France, and pledged to confront “those that seek to incite and spread hatred.”
“I condemn the odious and brutal attack that has just taken place in Nice and I am with France with all my heart,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.
“We will remain united and determined in the face of barbarity and fanaticism.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was “deeply shaken by the brutal murders” and said “my thoughts are with the relatives of those murdered and injured. Germany stands with France at this difficult time.”
In a statement issued later 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 Muhammad.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte condemned a “cowardly attack” and said: “Our convictions are stronger than fanaticism, hatred and terror. We embrace the families of the victims and our French brothers. We are united!“
Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez added: “We continue to defend freedom, our democratic values, peace and the security of our citizens.”
A harder tone came from Hungary, where populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban wrote that the attack showed clearly “that our culture, our way of life and our European values are in the crosshairs of extremist terrorism.
“We are ready to join forces in order to protect traditional European values and the traditional European way of life,” Orban added.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who previously governed with far-right ministers, called the murders in Nice “a despicable Islamist terror attack.”
“We will defend our values and European ‘way of life’ with all our might against Islamists and political Islam,” Kurz said.
Indian premier Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, strongly condemned the “heinous attack in Nice” and added that his country also “stands with France in the fight against terrorism.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “appalled” at the “barbaric attack at the Notre-Dame Basilica,” he tweeted in English and French.
“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and the UK stands steadfastly with France against terror and intolerance.”
Pope Francis prayed for the victims as the Vatican said that “terrorism and violence can never be accepted.
“Today’s attack has sown death in a place of love and consolation,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.
The pontiff urged people in France, a multi-cultural society, to “unite to combat evil with good.”
During talks with the Italian foreign minister, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin warned: “The attempt to foment war between religions is inconceivable.
“There is no war between Christianity and Islam, or between Judaism and Islam and we must be sure that no one is allowed to make that happen.”