US Secretary of State John Kerry is continuing his efforts to put together a coalition to take on "Islamic State" fighters in northern Iraq and Syria. The next stop on his tour of the Middle East is Cairo.
Kerry's visit to the Egyptian capital on Saturday is just the latest in a series of stops in which the top US diplomat is seeking to build support for a coalition of Arab and European allies to contribute to a campaign to defeat "Islamic State" (IS) fighters who have taken control of large swathes of northern Iraq and Syria.
During a stop in Ankara on Friday, Kerry failed in his efforts to persuade Turkey, a fellow member of the Western military alliance NATO, to commit to providing concrete support for the US efforts.
One day earlier, Turkey had declined to sign on to a communiqué in which 10 Arab countries pledged to "do their share" to help the US defeat IS militants in northern Iraq and Syria. Officials have cited Turkish worries about the fate of almost 50 diplomats seized by IS militants in the northern Iraq city of Mosul as the reason for Ankara's reluctance to get involved.
Enthusiastic French support
France, on the other hand, appears keen to lend concrete support to the coalition that Kerry is seeking to cobble together. On Friday, French President Francois Hollande visited Baghdad and according to the country's new prime minister, pledged to join a US-led campaign of air strikes against IS extremists.
"The French president has promised me that his country will participate in the aerial effort against the Islamic State," Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told a joint press conference in the Iraqi capital.
Hollande is also to host an international conference in Paris on Monday to discuss ways of supporting the efforts of Iraq's new government at combating IS militants.
This comes as a number of US officials have described the fight against IS as a war - with one of the latest to do so being White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
"The United States is at war with ISIL in the same way that we are at war with Al-Qaeda and its Al-Qaeda affiliates all around the globe," Earnest said, using an acronym by which IS was previously known.
Germany rules out airstrikes
Berlin has ruled out joining the US-led airstrikes, but a report in Saturday's edition of the national broadsheet Süddeutsche Zeitung said Chancellor Angela Merkel was planning to meet with some of her cabinet ministers in the coming week to explore ways that Germany could do more to help stabilize the situation in Syria and northern Iraq. According to the report, political and humanitarian efforts were to be discussed.
At the same time, the mass-circulation Bild newspaper has reported that the Bundeswehr was preparing to send around 40 paratroopers to Iraq to provide weapons training to Kurdish forces battling IS fighters.
Meanwhile, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere moved on Friday to ban all IS activities in Germany. De Maiziere told a press conference in Berlin that radicalized Islamists who had left Germany to fight for IS potentially also posed a threat on German soil.
pfd/shs (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)