IRAQI FORCES advance in Qayara to attack Islamic State in Mosul.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
"Victory over ISIS will advance peace in the entire region," Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Thursday as he spoke before senior officials meeting in Paris to discuss the future of Mosul, Iraq.
Al-Jaafari was speaking of the effect on other regional conflicts, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, pending the liberation of the Iraqi city.
The start of the offensive to retake Mosul began on Monday, two years after the city fell to Islamic State militants, who declared from its Grand Mosque a caliphate spanning parts of Iraq and Syria. It is thought to be the biggest battle fought in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003. The fighting has forced 5,640 people to flee their homes so far from the vicinity of the city, the International Organization for Migration said late on Thursday.
About 1.5 million residents are still believed to be inside Mosul
, and Islamic State has a history of using civilians as human shields.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi also addressed the meeting over a video call stating that forces had advanced towards Mosul faster than expected.
"The road ahead is long and we must work to subdue terrorism and end the destruction," Abadi stated. He added that victory over Islamic State would strengthen Iraq as a whole, with the country currently closer than ever to unity. He noted that for the first time in 25 years, Iraqi forces were allowed to operate in Kurdistan.
Abadi also spoke of the need to keep civilians safe, stating that Iraqi forces "have received lessons on international human rights laws."
French President Francois Hollande opened the meeting speaking of the "triple challenge- military, political, and humanitarian" in the battle for the city. Hollande emphasized that the primary concern is the safety of Mosul's residents after the liberation, with the need to prevent acts of revenge by Shi'ite militias against the Sunni population residing there.
"It is important not to confuse the residents with jihadists," he said. The terror attacks in Europe in recent years were planned in Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, Hollande noted.
French Foreign Minister Jean- Marc Ayrault added that it was important to also continue to the battle against Raqqa.
The United Nations says Mosul
could require the biggest humanitarian relief operation in the world, with worst-case scenario forecasts of up to a million people being uprooted.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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