Arab summit to mull creation of joint force against Islamic State group

AFP , Tuesday 3 Mar 2015

Arab League
A general view of the Arab League (Photo: Reuters)

The Arab League will consider setting up a defence unit to battle the spread of the Islamic State group at its annual summit later this month, an official said Tuesday.

Deputy chief Ahmed Ben Helli told reporters that the March 28-29 meeting in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh will discuss an Egyptian initiative to create a "unified Arab force".

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called for such a unit to confront security threats in the region where IS holds swathes of Syria and Iraq and has gained a foothold in Egypt's neighbour Libya.

Last month Sisi ordered air strikes in Libya after IS jihadists there beheaded 21 mostly Egyptian Christians.

Ben Helli said a united Arab force was needed, even as a "symbolic" show of deterrence at times of "conflict or disasters".

"Such forces should be ready and present so that they could symbolically show that the Arab countries have a deterrent force and a peacekeeping force that could step in at times of conflicts," he said.

Ben Helli added that such a unit would be tasked with "confronting threats that undermine the stability of the countries of the region, particularly the rise of terrorism", a reference to jihadists.

In an interview Saturday with the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news channel, Sisi said that a joint Arab force could get support from Arab League members Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

He said he discussed the creation of such a unified force with Jordan's King Abdullah II who welcomed the idea and said Arabs should press ahead to set up such a unit.

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