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Jordan takes part in four-way meeting on Iraq, Syria in Paris

By Reuters - Jun 26,2014 - Last updated at Jun 26,2014

PARIS — US Secretary of State John Kerry had talks on Thursday with Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and the counterparts from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as part of frenetic diplomacy to tackle Islamist militants threatening to tear apart Iraq.

Amid the possibility of air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) insurgents, Kerry briefed counterparts on his recent talks with Iraq’s prime minister in which he urged him to form an inclusive government bridging sectarian splits that have been exploited by radical Islamists.

“Iraq, obviously, is one of the predominant points, the move of ISIL concerns every single country here,” Kerry told reporters before the meeting at the US ambassador’s residence in Paris. “In addition to that, we have an ongoing crisis in Syria, where ISIL is also involved.”

Earlier in the day Kerry also discussed Syria and Iraq with former Lebanese prime minister Saad Al Hariri and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

He further urged political leaders of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region to stand with the central Baghdad government against the ISIL insurgency that has overrun much of the country’s north and its border with Syria.

Iraqi acting Vice President Khudair Al Khuzai, a close ally of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, said parliament would convene on July 1 to start the process of forming a new government.

 

That move is likely to be welcomed by the United States. A broader government bringing together Iraqi Sunni and Shiite Muslims as well as Kurds would offer more credibility in the fight against Sunni radicals, US officials say.

Washington is considering military assistance to Baghdad and has already sent in 300 military advisers, who could gather information about targets for future air strikes although no decision has been taken to start American bombing.

Kerry will travel to Saudi Arabia on Friday for talks with King Abdullah on the crises in Iraq and Syria.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have been alarmed by the success of ISIL after its jihadists captured swathes of northern Iraq alongside an amalgam of Sunni tribal and Islamist militias and members of the former ruling Baath Party.

Riyadh has been at odds with its main Western ally over its Middle East policies since the 2011 start of Arab uprisings and was critical of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that ousted Sunni leader Saddam Hussein.

“All of these issues are of immense importance for our countries,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal told reporters at the start of the meeting with Kerry. “I think with the cooperation between the countries we can affect, hopefully, the situation in the Middle East.”

US officials have said Kerry would also discuss risk of disruptions to global oil supplies from the Iraq crisis during his meetings in Paris and Jeddah.

Brent crude held steady near $114 a barrel on Thursday as traders watched for possible oil bottlenecks. Iraq’s southern oilfields, which yield most of the nation’s 3.3 million barrels a day, remain safe although the conflict with ISIL has hit the Baiji refinery in the north.

 

Disarming Ukraine separatists

 

Earlier on Thursday, Kerry met his French counterpart and called on Russia to disarm separatists in Ukraine within “the next hours” as the European Union prepared to discuss deeper sanctions against Moscow.

Washington and other Western powers have stepped up pressure on Russia to take concrete action to defuse the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where a truce between Russian-speaking rebels and government forces has appeared to crumble.

“We are in full agreement that it is critical for Russia to show in the next hours, literally, that they’re moving to help disarm the separatists, to encourage them to disarm, to call on them to lay down their weapons and to begin to become part of a legitimate process,” Kerry told reporters in Paris.

He added that EU leaders would discuss possible sanctions on Russia at their summit in Belgium on Friday. Washington has said it also has new sanctions ready to go, but Kerry said the United States would prefer not to be in “sanctions mode” and wanted Russia to take action without pressure.

“We would like to see a cooperative effort between the United States, Europe and Russia and the Ukrainians.”

Separatist rebellions erupted in eastern Ukraine in early April after street protests in Kiev toppled Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich, and Russia in turn annexed the Crimean peninsula. The rebels have called for union with Russia.

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