GCC denies failure of air campaign against ‘Islamic State’

Friday 22/05/2015
‘Coalition is not failing’

DOHA - The Gulf Cooperation Council on Sunday rejected claims a US-led coalition air campaign against the Islamic State group has failed following advances by jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

Speaking in Doha, after a meeting between foreign ministers of the GCC and European Union, Khalid al-Attiyah, Qatar's foreign minister, conceded that military action alone was not enough.

"The coalition is not failing but the air campaign is not enough," Attiyah, who was representing GCC countries at the meeting, told reporters.

"There are so many steps which we have to cooperate and coordinate together. To date the campaign against terror is effective.

"One of them is to enhance and expedite the dialogue in Iraq, and in Syria it is to find a way out to save the Syrian people, because they have been put between the tyranny of the regime and the brutality of the terrorist," he said.

The jihadist IS group took full control of a border crossing between Syria and Iraq on Sunday, a week after capturing the Iraqi city of Ramadi and days after seizing the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.

The surge by a group described as the most violent in modern jihad raised further questions about the efficiency of the US-led coalition's eight-month air campaign.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, described the latest news from Syria and Iraq, "especially" the capture of Palmyra, as "dramatic".

"Only a political solution, both in Syria and Iraq, can provide a settlement for the crisis," she said.

The day-long meeting touched on several significant areas of interest between the two sides, including the conflict in Yemen ahead of UN-brokered peace talks expected to take place next week in Geneva.

Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi has laid out conditions for attending Thursday's talks, namely that Iran-back Huthi rebels who overran much of the country withdraw from territory they have seized.

Saudi Arabia has been leading an air campaign against the Huthis since March 26 in a bid to restore the authority of Hadi who has fled to Riyadh with his government.

Talks in Doha also touched upon economics, with both sides saying they would continue to have discussions on establishing a free trade area between the 28-member EU and the six-state GCC.

Mogherini said trade between the EU and GCC had been growing at an "incredible rate" and reached "150 billion ($165 billion) euros last year".

The GCC groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

1