Last updated: 18 August, 2014

Obama to chair UN meeting on Syria and Iraq foreign fighters

US President Barack Obama will chair a special meeting of the UN Security Council next month on tackling the surge of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, US officials said Monday.

It will be the second time that Obama chairs a meeting of the top world body. In 2009, he presided over a meeting on nuclear non-proliferation.

Obama is scheduled to speak at a session of the UN General Assembly on September 24 and to attend a UN climate summit hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on September 23.

“The problem of terrorists traveling to foreign countries is not new, but the threat has become even more acute,” an official from the US mission to the UN told AFP.

US officials estimate that 12,000 foreign fighters have joined militants in Iraq and Syria who now control large swathes of territory and have been accused of atrocities.

“The Internet and social media have given terrorist groups unprecedented new ways to promote their hateful ideology and inspire recruits. The conflicts in Syria and Iraq have highlighted this threat,” said the official.

US Secretary of State John Kerry last week said that the United Nations should tackle the threat posed by the foreign fighters.

“We intend to join together in order to bring this to the United Nations meeting this month and put it on the agenda in a way that will elicit support from the source countries as well as those countries of concern,” Kerry said after talks in Sydney.

He said Australia and the US had agreed to “work together to assemble a compendium of the best practices in the world together regarding those foreign fighters.”

On Friday, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution that seeks to weaken militants in Iraq and Syria by choking off the flow of foreign fighters and financing from Gulf countries and elsewhere.

The resolution included a blacklist of six fighters accused of funneling funds and arranging travel for foreign fighters to help the Al-Nusra Front in Syria.

The spokesman for Islamic State fighters, Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, was also added to the sanctions list that provides for a travel ban and assets freeze.