BRUSSELS - The advance by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) across parts of the Middle East is finally being stopped, a US-led coalition said after a meeting yesterday.
"Participants noted that the global campaign against ISIL/Daesh is beginning to show results. The ISIL/Daesh advance across Syria and into Iraq is being halted," a coalition statement obtained by Agence France-Presse said, referring to the group by its alternative names.
The statement said Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by coalition air strikes, "are now reclaiming territory in Iraq".
The coalition of around 60 mainly Western and Arab nations was formed after the first US air strikes in August against ISIS, which has proclaimed a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.
The coalition members also agreed at the Brussels meeting to develop a multi-faceted strategy to combat ISIS, including stopping the flow of foreign fighters, cutting finance and "delegitimisation" of its powerful, social media-driven brand.
At the start of the meeting in Brussels, US Secretary of State John Kerry told his coalition partners that the military campaign against ISIS had inflicted serious damage on the group, carrying out around 1,000 air strikes so far in Iraq and Syria. But he said the fight against the militants could last years.
Mr Kerry said ISIS' momentum in Iraq had dissipated, and Iraqi forces had retaken territory around Mosul and in Tikrit and had expanded security around some oil refineries.
In northern and western Iraq, Kurdish troops are battling ISIS, while Sunni tribal fighters are "beginning to come on board", Mr Kerry added.
The US has also said there were indications that Iran carried out air strikes on ISIS targets in Iraq in recent days, although a senior Iranian official denied this.
Singapore is part of the coalition and its envoy to Belgium, Mr Ong Eng Chuan, represented the Government at the Brussels meeting.
Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Monday that the Singapore Armed Forces will be sending between 50 and 60 personnel to take part in the coalition to fight ISIS.
In Syria, Mr Kerry said, ISIS command facilities had been destroyed, oil infrastructure damaged and a siege of the border town of Kobane blocked.
"It is much harder now than when we started for Daesh to assemble forces in strength, to travel in convoys and to launch concerted attacks."
He said ISIS casualties were growing daily and so was global opposition.
"Muslim leaders across the globe are speaking out against the killers who have sought to hijack a whole faith, and Daesh's repellent nature is becoming more evident with every ugly execution and every former recruit's admission of being duped into believing Daesh is something that it most clearly is not," Mr Kerry said in his address at the meeting.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS