Egypt's FM heads to Paris for anti-IS meeting

Ahram Online, AFP, Sunday 14 Sep 2014

Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry is to take part in an international meeting to divide up roles against the jihadist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria

US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the end of a joint press conference in Cairo, Egypt, on Saturday, 13 September (Photo: AP)

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has left for Paris to attend an international conference to discuss action against the radical jihadist group the Islamic State, which now controls large areas of Iraq and Syria and has provoked the US to conduct air strikes against its positions in Iraq.

A brief statement by the Egyptian foreign ministry said Shoukry is to support Iraqi efforts to achieve an inclusive national understanding to face terrorism and the "threat to Iraq's unity."

The conference on Monday gathers some 20 countries from the anti-Islamic State coalition and will seek to divide up the roles between nations with often diverging interests.

However, any decisions taken at the conference, jointly hosted by French President Francois Hollande and Iraqi President Fuad Masum, will not necessarily be made public, a source told AFP.

"We're not going to say who is going to carry out air strikes. Or when they might happen," the source said.

Most countries will be represented by their foreign ministers and the conference will be the last stop of a marathon tour by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been criss-crossing the region to build as broad a coalition as possible against IS militants.

In a stop in Cairo on Saturday, Kerry met Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to discuss the issue, who stressed in the meeting the need for a holistic approach against terrorism and not against a particular group.

French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said: "We are looking to bring together the aims and initiatives" on militaristic, humanitarian and financial fronts.

Nadal said there will be concrete decisions announced at the conference and that a plan of action will be drawn up.

But another stumbling block is Syria, of which IS controls roughly a quarter, compared to approximately 40 percent of Iraq.

Washington has voiced a willingness to strike at IS in Syria without the backing of President Bashar Assad, while others are more hesitant.

In London, while Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will not rule anything out, Foreign Minister Philip Hammond stressed Britain will not take part in strikes against IS in Syria, after parliament last year voted against taking military action in that country.

Britain's resolve may well have been stiffened, however, by the execution of one of its citizens, aid worker David Haines, by IS militants.

France is unwilling to take part in action that is not backed by the UN Security Council, which is unlikely to approve military strikes given Russian and Chinese opposition.

Hollande has repeatedly stressed that there is no question of working with Assad to battle militants in Syria and French diplomats seem keen to focus on one problem at a time.

"If we want this conference to be useful, we should not mix up the problem areas. The heart of the problem at the moment is Iraq," he said.

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