PARIS (AP) — The United States met Thursday with its top Sunni state allies in the Mideast to consider how to confront the region's growing turmoil that has been spawned by a Sunni Muslim insurgency group.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant reaches beyond the two countries — Iraq and Syria — where it is currently based.
"The move of ISIL concerns every single country here," Kerry said at the start of the meeting held at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Paris.
He said the talks with foreign ministers from Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also would touch on a "number of critical issues" — including negotiations about Iran's nuclear program and the stalled peace effort between Israel and Palestinian authorities.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal called the discussions "of immense importance for our countries."
"I think with the cooperation between these countries we can affect, hopefully, the situation in a better way," al-Faisal said.
Kerry also met earlier Thursday with the Sunni former prime minister of Lebanon.
ISIL's roots are in Iraq, where for years it launched attacks at American forces, the Shiite-led government and Shiite pilgrims in an effort to destabilize the country after former dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, was overthrown and executed. It spread into neighboring Syria to join the Sunni movement to oust President Bashar Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiism. In recent months, it has ramped up its march of terror across western and northern Iraq, defeating government forces and overtaking several cities in Sunni-dominated regions.
It's feared the insurgency will spark an outright civil war in Iraq — joining the ongoing three-year battle in Syria — if ISIL's might is not curbed.
Kerry's meeting with the Arab state diplomats lasted about two hours. Afterward, senior State Department officials said the Sunni diplomats repeated concerns about Iraq's current Shiite-led government and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, with whom their states have had longstanding tensions. All sides agreed during the meeting that Iraq's next government — which will begin to form after the new parliament is seated next week in Baghdad — must be more accepting of the country's Sunni and Kurdish population. Sixty percent of Iraqis are Shiite.