Dutch say fight against Islamic State insurgents must go to Syria

AMSTERDAM Fri Aug 22, 2014 8:46am EDT

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said on Friday that the fight against Islamic State insurgents can only be successful if the jihadi militants are confronted in Syria as well as Iraq.

Germany, Italy, Britain and the United States have said they are ready to send arms to bolster the capabilities of Iraqi Kurds fighting Islamic State in northern Iraq, and Washington has carried out several air strikes on IS positions there.

But there has been no known move to target Islamic State inside Syria, where they seized wide areas of the north and east during its civil war before storming across much of northern Iraq, declaring a "caliphate" straddling the two countries.

The Netherlands, a NATO member and close U.S. ally, has airlifted more than a million euros worth of humanitarian aid to northern Iraq, where Islamic State advances have displaced over one million people, and said it might supply weaponry too.

"Everyone who is now calling for a stronger approach against ISIS in Iraq must realize that it will only be successful if we are ready to take on ISIS in Syria as well," Timmermans said, using another acronym for Islamic State.

"Otherwise there is no point because it would simply shift to Syria ... Solutions for Iraq won't be sustainable if we don't also find a solution in Syria," he told journalists in The Hague.

Timmermans called for more Western support for Kurds and relatively moderate rebel factions in Syria involved in an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Last year the United States considered but ultimately did not carry out air strikes on Assad's forces after a chemical weapons attack, a decision critics say strengthened radical Islamists in the rebel ranks fighting him.

Several Western governments warned this week that Islamic State, which carried out a gruesome execution of captive U.S. journalist James Foley and posted a video of it online, poses a threat to Europe and America as well.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that after gaining strength during Syria's civil war and sweeping into northern Iraq, IS is "an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it's in Iraq or anywhere else."

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch and Thomas Escritt; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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