U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged allies Monday to maintain a focus on defeating the Islamic State group, with a particular focus on countering its affiliates in Africa.
“We’ve made great progress because we’ve been working together, so we hope you’ll keep an eye on the fight, keep up the fight against this terrorist organization until it is decisively defeated,” Blinken said in Italy Tuesday at the start of a meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
He said coalition efforts had produced “significant achievements,” including virtually ceasing the movement of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria.
Blinken noted that 10,000 ISIS militants are being detained by Syrian Democratic Forces, calling the situation “simply untenable” and calling on governments to repatriate their citizens for rehabilitation or prosecution.
The top U.S. diplomat announced $436 million in additional humanitarian aid for Syrians and communities in surrounding countries that have been hosting Syrian refugees. He said the money would go toward providing food, water, shelter, health care, education and protection.
The United States launched a coalition effort, now involving 83 members, aimed at defeating the Islamic State group in 2014 after the militants seized control of a large area across northern Syria and Iraq, and in 2019 declared the militants had been ousted from their last remaining territory.
Another meeting Monday in Italy focuses specifically on Syria, where in addition to issues related to the Islamic State group, Blinken, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi De Maio and other ministers will focus on renewing efforts to bring an end to the decade-long conflict that began in 2011.
Humanitarian access, in particular the ability for the United Nations to deliver cross-border aid, will be among the issues that Blinken highlights, the State Department said.
He is also expected to discuss U.S. support for an immediate cease-fire in Syria.
“Stability in Syria, and the greater region, can only be achieved through a political process that represents the will of all Syrians,” Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood told reporters. “We’re committed to working with allies, partners, and the U.N. to ensure that a durable political solution remains within reach.”
Efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict, through a combination of halting the fighting and carrying out a political roadmap endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, have seen little progress in recent years.
Hood said the international community “must renew its shared resolve to ensure the protection, dignity, and human rights of the Syrian people.”
Earlier Monday,Blinken visited the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis and other officials with climate change, human rights and human trafficking among the topics of discussion.
The visit came ahead of an expected October meeting between the pope and U.S. President Joe Biden, who is the second Catholic to lead the United States.
Today I had the great pleasure of touring the Vatican, including the beautiful Sistine Chapel. The spiritual atmosphere, the divine art, and the impressive architecture left me speechless. Truly stunning. pic.twitter.com/aa1jrzTojV
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) June 28, 2021
In addition to meetings with Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Blinken received a tour of the Sala Regia and Sistine Chapel.
Blinken is on a multi-nation tour of Europe, which on Tuesday brings him to Matera, Italy for a meeting of G-20 foreign ministers. The agenda for those talks includes the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and equitable economic recovery.