France seeks international meeting to tackle Islamic State

Global strategy needed to fight Islamic extremist group, says Hollande

French president François Hollande Élysée Palace in Paris yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

French president François Hollande Élysée Palace in Paris yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer


France has said it wants to convene Arab states, Iran and key world powers to co-ordinate a broad response against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) insurgents who control large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Speaking in an interview with Le Monde, French president François Hollande did not say when such a meeting could be held or who would be invited but said a global strategy was needed to combat the militants.

“We can no longer keep to the traditional debate of intervention or non-intervention,” Hollande told Le Monde.

“We have to come up with a global strategy to fight this group, which . . . threatens countries like Iraq, Syria and Lebanon,” he said.

The Islamic State – also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – has captured swathes of northern Iraq since June, executing non-Sunni Muslim captives and minorities, displacing tens of thousands and drawing the first US air strikes in the region since Washington withdrew troops in 2011.

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Foreign minister Laurent Fabius told lawmakers Paris wanted the permanent members of the UN Security Council – Britain, US, China, Russia and France – and regional countries, including Arab states and Iran, to co-ordinate action against the militants.

“We have to see with different partners how we can face them [Isis] with intelligence and military measures. That means cutting their resources, [and] support this group has from the population,” said Mr Fabius.

A diplomatic source said the conference could be held in Paris in September.

France, which has close ties with Iraq’s Kurdish regional government, started delivering weapons to Kurdish fighters on Friday to help stop an advance by Isis into the Kurdish region.

Speaking on French radio, a Kurdish general urged Paris to provide anti-tank missiles.

Mr Hollande said that the deliveries had been agreed with the central government in Baghdad to ensure Iraq remained united.

In a separate development a humanitarian airlift to northern Iraq began yesterday, kicking off a 10-day operation to provide tents and other aid to half a million displaced people who are struggling for survival, said the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR.

A cargo plane from Jordan touched down in Irbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, carrying 100 tonnes of emergency aid, said the agency.Aid is also on its way by road and sea, with 175 trucks scheduled to arrive via Turkey, Jordan and Iran, it said. Some 2,410 tonnes of supplies are to be delivered between now and September.

Iraq’s escalating crisis means that the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq is now hosting more than 600,000 internally displaced civilians, including more than 200,000 people who fled the Sinjar area since early August, said the UNHCR. Many are living in unfinished buildings, parks or by the roadside.

Some 1.2 million people have been uprooted in Iraq so far this year, including 500,000 in the western Anbar region, it said. – (Reuters)