Defeating ISIS is US' No 1 goal in Middle East: Rex Tillerson

There was no apparent announcement of a new overall strategy, however.

"I recognize there are many pressing challenges in the Middle East, but defeating ISIS is the United States' number one goal in the region", said Tillerson.

Part of the US strategic plan is to increase pressure on the group, while at the same time creating zones of stability to assist refugees in returning home, which is key to the next phase of the battle with ISIS.

Tillerson offered only some broad hints about next steps there.

"Our end goal in this phase is the regional elimination of ISIS through military force".

But he also warned the coalition is "not in the business of nation-building or reconstruction", amid concerns President Donald Trump is preparing to slash the United States foreign aid budget. "We must continue to keep our focus on the most urgent matter at hand".

Mr Tillerson said the USA would set up "interim zones of stability" to help refugees who fled IS and al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria to return home.

"As we've said before", Tillerson continued, "when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority".

The session signals that the new administration intends to maintain leadership of a sprawling diplomatic effort that Obama began in 2014 against the Islamic State, despite Trump's characterizing his predecessor's strategy as weak and ineffectual.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was disappointed the USA hasn't outlined a more detailed plan, particularly for Raqqa's future.

Wednesday's meeting is the first of the global coalition since Iraqi government forces, backed by the US-led worldwide coalition, retook several Iraqi cities from ISIL past year and recaptured eastern Mosul. "The expansion of ISIS has necessitated a large-scale military response, and our offensive measures are reclaiming areas in Iraq and Syria in which ISIS has had a large and destructive footprint".

During the night, US helicopters carried almost 500 Syrian fighters for the first time behind the militants' defensive lines near the Tabqa Dam, about 25 miles west of Raqqah, the militants' self-declared capital and one of its crucial strongholds, according to the Pentagon.

Tillerson is the first secretary of state in modern history with no experience of public office. But he said other nations, particularly those which have faced IS or IS-inspired attacks, must contribute more militarily or financially.

The United States airlifted Arab Syrian rebels and Kurds into the terrorist group's stronghold city Raqqa, which is their headquarters or "capital".

Diplomats said they're eager for the administration to clarify its strategy.

In comments during the presidential campaign, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of founding the extremist group.

As a president, Trump has moved more cautiously.

"A more defined course of action in Syria is still coming together", Tillerson said.

Bishop, who last week met her counterparts from Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines recently, said Australia was increasing cooperation with Southeast Asian states on how to deal with returning foreign fighters and ISIS-inspired attacks in the region, and counter radicalisation and recruitment and the ISIS efforts to raise and transfer terrorist funds.

The Pentagon is backing an alliance of local Kurdish and Arab militias to take the city, but Turkey has its own rebel force in the region and Russian Federation is backing Bashar al-Assad's regime.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Hungary's foreign minister said he liked what he heard.

"As a coalition we are not in the business of nation building or reconstruction", he said, adding that resources should be focused on preventing the resurgence of ISIS and equipping war-torn communities to rebuild. He said his country would send 50 more soldiers to Iraq, taking its contribution to 200.

  • Leroy Wright