ROME — Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday called for more financial contributions from nations fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq to rebuild towns destroyed by the fleeing occupiers.
At the opening of a conference in Rome, Kerry said $50 million from a stabilization fund had helped resurrect life in Tikrit, Iraq, so that nine in 10 residents could return. "Services have to be delivered, police have to work, schools have to open, there has to be stabilization," Kerry said of the town retaken from the Islamic State.
Foreign ministers from more than 20 of the 66 nations in the coalition fighting the Islamic State are attending the Rome conference to assess progress that has been made.
So far, extremists have been ousted from 40 percent of territory they controlled in Iraq and 20 percent to 30 percent of the area they held in Syria.
The diplomats are primarily from countries in Europe and the Middle East. They do not, however, include representatives from Russia and Iran, the two biggest backers of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In Geneva, Switzerland, meanwhile, both sides in the Syria peace negotiation expressed frustration Tuesday with the sluggish progress of the talks, raising new doubts about the viability of the most determined diplomatic push to date aimed at ending the nation's almost five-year conflict.
The renewed sense of uncertainty came a day after the chief U.N. mediator, Staffan de Mistura, confidently declared that the talks had officially "started," allaying fears that the process could collapse before it began.
But mutual distrust between the two sides — the government of Assad and the leading opposition delegation — was front and center again Tuesday. Talks on any substantive issues do not appear to have taken place.
The opposition bloc demanded an end to ongoing government advances in Syria, citing Syrian army thrusts outside the cities of Homs and Aleppo. Airstrikes by Russia have helped government forces push forward on several battlefronts.
This report includes material from the Los Angeles Times.