PARIS, June 27 — Only 24 hours before he is due in Saudi Arabia for high-level talks, US Secretary of State John Kerry met in Paris Thursday with Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan to discuss volatile situation in Iraq, official sources confirmed.
The meeting was called in the wake of the offensive by militants from the radical Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) which has made huge territorial gains in Iraq in the past 10 days, bringing fighting close to the capital, Baghdad. Indeed ISIL forces were said to have come within 60 kilometres of the capital, before being pushed back.
The militants, who have been fighting the regime of Bashar Al-Assad for more than two years, have taken over border crossings between Syria and Iraq and have been in action on the Jordanian border.
They now control large areas and major urban centres like Mosul and Tikrit in north and central Iraq.
Kerry, who arrived in Paris after visits to the region earlier – most importantly in Baghdad and Irbil – met with representatives of all communities in Iraq to seek a common front against ISIL. He later travelled to Brussels and held talks with his NATO counterparts.
US officials confirmed Thursday that Kerry met with Prince Saud Al-Faisal, with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and UAE Chief Diplomat Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan for talks at the US Embassy residence in the French capital.
Diplomats said that Kerry considered Iraq was one of the most prominent and critical issues for discussion and the US official wants to stress the seriousness of the situation in Iraq.
The US is hoping that regional cooperation can be undertaken to deprive ISIL of support and stem the advance of the radicals, the diplomats said.
But for this, the Iraqi government of Nouri Al-Maliki will have to put serious reforms in place and open up the power structure for sharing with the other communities and some wonder whether his position as Prime Minster is secure because of his exclusionary policies.
Kerry earlier met with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to discuss Ukraine and Iraq and he also had a separate meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigor Lieberman.