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Anti-IS coalition meets in Paris

The ministers, including from Australia, United States, France and Britain, met in the French capital seeking to accelerate gains and retake IS strongholds.

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But critics say their efforts are so far insufficient, with I-S spreading its ideas further abroad.

Seven defence ministers have met with just one ultimate objective: defeating the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS).

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne joined the talks in Paris, attended by leaders from the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

They’ve issued a joint statement recommitting their governments to work to accelerate and intensify the campaign against IS, which is also known as ISIL or Daesh.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter says there is broad agreement on a coordinated plan to battle IS over the next year and take back key cities in Iraq and Syria from the militants.

He’s extended President Obama’s metaphor likening the militant group to a cancer.

“The three key objectives of the counter-ISIL military campaign are, first: to destroy the ISIL cancer’s parent tumour in Iraq and Syria by collapsing its two power centres in Raqqa and Mosul; second the combat the metastasis if the ISIL tumour worldwide, and third to protect our people at home.”

The Paris setting for the talks itself sends a message, coming just over two months after the city endured deadly shooting and bombing attacks claimed by IS.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says it’s time to increase the collective effort by putting in place a coherent military strategy.

“Its resilience should strengthen our action. We should keep fighting this organisation on all fronts. We’ll root them out on the ground and from people’s minds.”

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon explained the priorities of the coalition.

“You will now see, I hope, more attacks on the oil wells, on the supply roots, on the logistics, the arms dumps and on the command and control and on the leadership of this evil organisation.”

IS lost control of the western Iraqi city of Ramadi last month in a sorely needed victory for US-backed Iraqi forces.

But critics, including some in the US Congress, say the US strategy is still far too weak and lacks sufficient military support from Sunni Arab allies.

US Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says IS still poses a potent threat.

But US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter is confident about the outlined strategy to wipe out IS strongholds in Iraq and Syria and limit its spread.

Mr Carter also announced that the 26 nations involved in the anti-I-S coalition, as well as Iraq, will meet in Brussels next month to continue the talks.

 

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have met to discuss next week’s planned Syria peace talks.

Differences over who is eligible to join the UN-mediated talks are threatening to delay the start of the negotiations.

But Mr Lavrov says they will go ahead.

“We don’t have any thoughts on moving the start of talks from January to February. This is the position of both Russia and the United States. We are confident that in the coming days in January these talks will begin.”

The negotiations between the Assad government and the opposition are to be the first step in a proposed 18-month political transition for Syria, which has been mired in civil war for four years.