Islamic State conflict: London hosts coalition talks

SENIOR officials from 21 countries are gathering in London to discuss efforts to tackle the militant group Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq.

Those taking part in the one-day conference include US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

They will discuss how to halt the flow of recruits to IS and stop its funds.

They will also look at providing more military help to those fighting IS on the ground, and more humanitarian aid.

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins says ministers will be exploring ways to accelerate and intensify a long-term campaign.

Recent attacks by Islamic militants in France have put even greater political pressure on governments to show decisive results, he adds.

Mr Kerry, who will co-host the talks with UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, said there was “greater determination” than ever to defeat IS.

“Terrorists want to drive us apart, but in fact their actions have had the opposite effect, they’re bringing us together,” he told reporters before leaving for London.

He had been holding talks in Washington with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Ms Mogherini, who will also attend the London talks, said the conflict was “not a fight between the West and Islam”.

She said the coalition was “a partnership that unites us all against a phenomenon that is brutally devastating societies all over starting with the Arab countries”.

IS controls large areas of Iraq and Syria in which it has declared the creation of a caliphate.

Mr Abadi, speaking in Iraq before leaving for London, praised the coalition’s air campaign against IS, but said the international community needed to do more to train and equip ground forces.

“We are in this almost on our own,” he told AP news agency. “There is a lot being said and spoken, but very little on the ground.”

Countries taking part in Thursday’s conference along with the US and UK are Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

The US-led coalition has carried out more than 1,000 air strikes in Iraq since its campaign against IS began in August.

Hundreds more air strikes have targeted IS positions in neighbouring Syria.

The US says the campaign has been successful but it is likely to stretch on for years.

The UK, France, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and Denmark have taken part in the air strikes in Iraq but are not involved in the campaign in Syria.

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