Gulf monarchies say they are ready to help counter jihadists

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) - Gulf Arab monarchies said Saturday they were ready to help counter advances by jihadists in Syria and Iraq, after the US called for a global coalition to fight the militants.

But the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said it was awaiting details from Washington and a visit to the region by US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss anti-jihadist cooperation.

US President Obama admitted Thursday that he did not yet have a strategy to tackle jihadists from the Islamic State, which has declared a "caliphate" in large swathes of territory it controls in Syria and Iraq.

But Obama said he was developing a broad plan that would involve military, diplomatic and regional efforts to defeat the IS jihadists who have sown terror through crucifixions and gruesome beheadings.

Obama said he would dispatch Kerry to the Middle East to discuss the plan with regional allies, namely in the Sunni-dominated Gulf monarchies.

"We have all heard what President Obama said about a coalition and that he has asked John Kerry to travel to the region to set it up," said Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah.

"We are waiting for more details to understand what is needed... We are waiting for Kerry," he added after chairing a GCC meeting in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

A GCC statement said Gulf monarchies are ready to act "against terrorist threats that face the region and the world".

The foreign ministers of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - the six GCC states - also pledged a readiness to fight "terrorist ideology which is contrary to Islam".

"We denounce vehemently the practices of those who use Islam as a pretext to kill and displace en masse Iraqis and Syrians," Sabah said.

He added that the GCC supports a UN Security Council resolution earlier this month aimed at weakening the jihadists.

The mid-August resolution called "on all member states to take national measures to suppress the flow of foreign terrorist fighters", and threatens sanctions against anyone involved in their recruitment.

Kerry, in an op-ed published Friday in the New York Times, said Washington would submit a plan to deal with the jihadists at the Security Council in September.

"What's needed to confront its nihilistic vision and genocidal agenda is a global coalition using political, humanitarian, economic, law enforcement and intelligence tools to support military force," he said.

There is growing alarm that IS jihadists, who this month beheaded US journalist James Foley in Syria, are preparing to carry out attacks in the West.

Saudi King Abdullah underscored the threat posed by jihadists unless there is "rapid" action, in remarks quoted Saturday by Arab media.

"Terrorism knows no border and its danger could affect several countries outside the Middle East," Abdullah was quoted as telling ambassadors, including the US envoy.

"If we ignore them, I am sure they will reach Europe in a month and America in another month," he warned.

Meanwhile the Kuwaiti foreign minister said in Jeddah that the Gulf monarchies have resolved a six-month spat with GCC partner Qatar, which they had accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sabah said differences were settled because unity was needed to face the common threat posed by the radical Sunni IS jihadists.

Relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain sank to a new low in March when the three governments withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, accusing it of meddling in their affairs and supporting the Brotherhood.

Sabah said the ambassadors could return to their posts "at any time", without giving a specific date.

His Omani counterpart, Yussef bin Alawi bin Abdullah, earlier told reporters: "The crisis in the Gulf has been resolved."