A major conference in Paris, convened to agree a coordinated strategy to combat the Islamic State (IS), has concluded today by thirty countries pledging to assist Iraq fight the group’s militants “by all means necessary”. Following the conference, foreign ministers participating in the high-level meeting issued a joint statement, in which they committed their countries to support Iraq, including with “appropriate military assistance”. Islamic State – formerly known as ISIS – which controls large parts of Iraq and Syria, has reportedly between 20,000 and 31,000 fighters in both territories. The conference comes on the heel of a tour of the Middle East by US Secretary of State John Kerry, during which he has been seeking support for a plan of action unveiled by President Barack Obama last week.
Opening the summit, French President Francois Hollande stressed that the threat posed by Islamic State militants could only be met by a coordinated global response. The widely publicized murders of two American journalists and the British aid worker David Haines by IS militants, shown in videos released by the group, is said to have added momentum to the plans. Iraqi President Fuad Masum, who co-hosted the conference with Mr Hollande, appealed to the international community to pursue the jihadists and eliminate the threat they pose to the world “quickly”. Mr Masum said that “If this intervention and support to Iraq is late, that means that Islamic State could occupy more territory and the threat it poses will be even bigger.”
Meanwhile, France and Britain have been reportedly conducting surveillance flights over Iraq to gather intelligence needed for the planning of future air strikes. According to U.S. officials, several Arab countries have already offered to take part in air strikes on IS fighters in Iraq. Mr Kerry said he was “extremely encouraged” by pledges of military assistance from so many states, including Arab countries with majority Muslim populations, to deal with the militant group.