Middle East

Islamic State crisis: John Kerry hails coalition effort

Air strike on Kobane in northern Syria. 23 Nov 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Coalition air strikes have targeted IS positions in Syria and in Iraq

Coalition air strikes in Syria and Iraq have halted or reversed the momentum of jihadist group Islamic State, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said.

Speaking after talks in London between 21 coalition states, Mr Kerry said about half the group's leaders had been killed since strikes began in August.

The UK foreign secretary said the coalition was determined to defeat IS.

But Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned falling oil prices could hurt Iraq's fighting capacity.

Mr Abadi thanked the coalition for providing training to his forces but said it needed more help with the supply of weapons.

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins says the recent attacks by Islamist militants in France have put even greater political pressure on governments to show decisive results.

As well as the US, UK and Iraq, the talks included Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain.

Gulf coalition partners Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE also took part.

'Taken out'

Speaking after the talks, Mr Kerry said: "In recent months we have seen definitively... momentum halted in Iraq and in some cases reversed."

After nearly 2,000 air strikes, ground forces had reclaimed some 700 sq km (270 sq m) of territory, he told the news conference.

At the start of the coalition air strikes, the group was thought to control nearly 91,000 sq km of territory across Syria and Iraq.

Giving details of military operations against IS, Mr Kerry said the coalition was "taking out" its fighters "in the thousands thus far, single digits but thousands".

"About 50% of the top command" had been eliminated, he said.

Hundreds of vehicles and tanks had been destroyed, he continued, as had nearly 200 oil and gas facilities being used by IS to fund its operations, and more than 1,000 IS military sites.

The host of the London talks, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, had warned at the start of the meeting that it could be months before Iraq was ready to take the offensive to IS.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption John Kerry (right) flanked by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (centre) and the UK's Philip Hammond in London

But the country had clearly demonstrated its commitment to defeating radical Islamists who preach hatred, he said at the concluding news conference.

"So long as Iraq delivers on its commitments, the international community will stand behind it," he said.

Stressing that the collapse in the oil price had been "disastrous", Prime Minister Abadi pointed out that oil revenue accounted for 85% of Iraq's budget.

"We don't want to see a reverse of our military victory because of our budget and fiscal problems and we have been assured that every member of this coalition will stand with Iraq in its fight against Da'esh [IS]," he said.

Among other issues discussed at the one-day conference was that of stopping foreign fighters travelling to the war zone.

Mr Hammond said that Turkey, a key route for jihadists, was "doing a fantastic job of intercepting people who are seeking to get across the border into Syria".

"The final bit of the jigsaw", he added, was to ensure EU states had the necessary access to passenger data to intercept suspects.