WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has urged members of the international coalition fighting Islamic State (IS) militants to boost their contributions to the effort.
Tillerson made the remarks in Washington on March 22 at a meeting of a 68-nation anti-Islamic State (IS) coalition that is discussing how to defeat IS extremists in Iraq and Syria.
The extremist group seized large parts of the two countries in 2014 but has been losing ground since 2016.
"The United States will do its part, but the circumstances on the ground require more from all of you," Tillerson told the gathering. "I ask each country to examine how it can best support these vital stabilization efforts, especially in regard to contribution of military and financial resources."
Calling the defeat of IS the "number-one" U.S. goal in the Middle East, Tillerson praised "hard-fought victories in Iraq and Syria" that he said "have swung the momentum in our coalition's favor."
"But we must increase the intensity of our efforts and solidify our gains in the next phase of a counter-ISIS fight. Degradation of ISIS is not the end goal -- we must defeat ISIS,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the group.
Tillerson said Washington plans to establish "interim zones of stability" to help refugees return to what is left of their homes during the next phase of the fight against IS and Al-Qaeda militants.
"The United States will increase our pressure on IS and Al-Qaeda and will work to establish interim zones of stability, through cease-fires, to allow refugees to return home," Tillerson told the gathering at the State Department.
He said it is "only a matter of time" before IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is killed.
Tillerson said the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria had decreased sharply during the past year.
"It is harder for terrorists to get in and more importantly harder for them to get out to threaten our homelands," he said.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP