Brussels and Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal has said the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) cannot be waged by aerial bombing alone, during a speech to representatives of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition on Wednesday.
Speaking to diplomats from more than 60 countries and international organizations at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, the Saudi Foreign Minister said: “We are all well aware that countering terrorism will take a long time and requires continuing effort.”
“Out of the Kingdom’s keenness to further the cohesion of this coalition and the success of its efforts . . . we believe that this requires the presence of combat troops on the ground,” he said.
Wednesday’s meeting was the largest between anti-ISIS coalition foreign ministers since the inception of the alliance. Representatives from more than 60 countries met to discuss the latest developments in the fight against the extremist group, and released a statement to continue their efforts to clamp down on its presence in Iraq and Syria.
The Saudi foreign minister called for increased efforts to “strengthen the forces of moderation in Syria,” singling out the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other moderate opposition forces in particular.
“This would unite the efforts of these forces to be used to purge Syrian territory of all terrorist organizations, which [currently] occupy one-third of Syria,” Prince Saud said.
Turning to ISIS’s presence in Iraq, he said: “This requires the unity of the international front, the restructuring and rehabilitation of the [Iraqi] army under a collective doctrine with national and comprehensive participation of all sections of the Iraqi people away from sectarian exclusionary policies.”
He also stressed the importance of curbing the activities of all armed militias working outside the framework of the Iraqi state.
In a speech at the same conference, US Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to combating ISIS. “We recognize the hard work that remains to be done. Our commitment will be measured most likely in years,” he said.
“We will engage in this campaign for as long as it takes to prevail,” Kerry added. He went on to proclaim the coalition’s airstrikes in Iraq and Syria as a success, claiming that they had “inflicted damage on ISIS’s logistical and operational capabilities.”
Prince Saud also hailed the Kingdom’s efforts in the fight against terrorism “in all its forms and manifestations,” stressing that “Saudi Arabia has been, and remains, at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, as demonstrated by its participation in the international coalition to fight ISIS.”
“The Kingdom’s hosting of the regional conference to confront armed terrorist groups in the region in Jeddah last September formed the nucleus of this international coalition against the terrorist organization ISIS,” he added.
“The contribution of the Kingdom has not been confined to participation in military operations against the group but has also extended to include the provision of humanitarian assistance to the brotherly Iraqi people and coordination with the international community to target the sources of financing for terrorist groups,” he said.