Paris to host international meeting on Iraq and Syria in June

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, that France will host a high-level meeting on the crisis in Iraq and Syria on June 2. -- PHOTO: EPA 
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, that France will host a high-level meeting on the crisis in Iraq and Syria on June 2. -- PHOTO: EPA 

PARIS (AFP) - France will host a high-level meeting on the crisis in Iraq and Syria on June 2, the government announced Wednesday, as the international community battles to stem the advance of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced at a cabinet meeting "that there would be a meeting in Paris on the whole situation in Syria and Iraq," adding that US Secretary of State John Kerry would attend.

Some 24 ministers - including German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier - will also travel to the French capital, as well as representatives from top international organisations, diplomatic sources said.

The announcement of the meeting came as ISIS fighters overran part of the historic Syrian city of Palmyra.

"The Syrian regime is in a bad position. It is losing ground," one French diplomatic source said.

"This is pushing us to find a political solution and revive a process based on Geneva I, that is a transition government and the departure of (President Bashar) al-Assad."

The source said the fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to the jihadists at the weekend was also "a very serious concern" and would be discussed, as well as more general political questions such as an inclusive government in Baghdad.

"We will also discuss foreign fighters and the struggle against the financing of terrorism," said the source, who did not wish to be named.

Iraq's army and paramilitary forces have massed around Ramadi, aiming to recapture the strategic city from IS before it builds up its defences.

The international community is also stepping up its diplomatic efforts in the region, with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura holding talks earlier this month with a wide range of parties involved in the Syrian conflict, including the Syrian government's envoy to Geneva.

However, the talks were dealt a set-back with the key opposition Syrian National Coalition declining to take part, dismissing the negotiations as "unimportant." In September, a similar summit in Paris saw officials from around the globe fine-tune a strategy to combat the ISIS, which has seized large parts of both Iraq and Syria.

The nations discussed what roles each would play in a US-led coalition, which has struggled to stop the jihadists' advance despite pounding IS targets with more than 3,000 air strikes.

More than 60 countries eventually joined the coalition, a dozen of which are taking part in the air strikes.