Recapturing Iraq’s western city of Ramadi from the Islamic State group will be the focal point of a meeting in Paris on Tuesday. Representatives from 20 countries are expected to participate in the event.
According to a senior U.S. State Department official, cited by reports, the Iraqi government’s plans to reclaim Ramadi and the role of a U.S.-led coalition in the exercise will be the spotlight of the meeting. The town of Ramadi, located 55 miles west of Baghdad and the capital of Anbar province, was captured by ISIS militants last month.
“This is not a business-as-usual meeting,” the unnamed official said, Agence France-Presse reported. “We’re coming to discuss with Prime Minister [Haider al-Abadi] his plan for liberating Ramadi and Anbar province.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, who broke his leg in a bicycle accident in France over the weekend, will participate in the meeting remotely, the official added.
Authorities have grown increasingly concerned over Iraq’s dependence on Shia volunteers to counter ISIS’ advance, and the Paris meeting will highlight the importance of including Iraq’s minority Sunni community in dealing with the ISIS threat, the BBC reported. Anbar is a Sunni stronghold in Shia-majority Iraq.
"Ramadi was a big blow," a French diplomatic source said, according to Reuters. "We're not going to change the fundamentals of our strategy - air strikes and support for Iraqi forces - but it's crucial that everybody in Iraq is part of the fight against Islamic State."
A senior security source, cited by the BBC, said that plans to beat back ISIS were being given the "final touches" and would be implemented within days, adding that six Iranian-made rocket launchers had been transported to the frontline in Anbar, and 3,000 fighters had been given basic training.
Representatives from Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are expected to attend the Paris meeting.