US cranks up fight against jihadists, wants Syria solution

November 24, 2015 08:43
US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) speaks with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi. Kerry held talks with senior Emirati and Saudi officials on the Syrian crisis and Islamic State. Photo: Reuters

Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is ramping up efforts to fight Islamic jihadists and resolve Syria’s four-year-old civil war.

“The goal is to accelerate everything,” Kerry told reporters after meetings with senior officials in Dubai.

“Everything helps move everything else. If we can get a cease-fire, if we can get a political process, that greatly facilitates what we can then talk to Russians and others about in terms of coordination to go after Daesh [Islamic State],” he said.

Kerry was in the United Arab Emirates capital to hold discussions with senior Emirati and Saudi officials on ways to push forward a process of political transition in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reports.

For years, he has called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

He said efforts to speed up the diplomacy and military action already were under way before coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday, claimed by Islamic State, killed 130 people.

US President Barack Obama now “has to make that decision as to what options he wants to exercise”.

He has already put special forces in Syria and US forces are working with Turkish forces to help secure the border with Syria, Kerry said.

Some former senior Obama administration officials, including 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former deputy Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Morell, have called in recent weeks for a protected zone in Northern Syria.

Kerry said the idea wasn’t new and that he remained focused on trying to secure a cease-fire.

“We effectively have frankly an air exclusion zone... through most of Eastern Syria,” Kerry said, pointing to combat flights by the US and allies Australia and France.

“What we’re trying to do is now stop [Assad] from dropping barrel bombs. And we’re working with the Russians and others to try to create pressure on that and that’s one of the reasons why we’re looking for a cease-fire.”

Meanwhile, French President François Hollande is set to arrive in Washington on Tuesday for bilateral talks on coordinating anti-Islamic State efforts.

He will visit Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow later this week.

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