Saudi Arabia says a coalition of 34 Islamic nations has been formed to fight “any terrorist group”. Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan and several Gulf Arab and African states make up the coalition, a statement said.
The joint statement published on state news agency SPA said: “The countries here mentioned have decided on the formation of a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, with a joint operations centre based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations.”
The announcement said there was “a duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organisations whatever their sect and name which wreak death and corruption on earth and aim to terrorise the innocent.”
Iran, a mainly Shia Islam country, was absent from the list.
It is Sunni Saudi Arabia’s rival for influence in the Arab world and has been accused of backing one of the groups involved in fighting in Yemen, a conflict that also involves Saudi Arabia.
A different Saudi-led coalition that is supporting Yemen’s internationally recognised government said on Monday night that a planned truce with the country’s Shia rebels has been postponed for 12 hours.
Saudi Arabia’s defence minister said that the coalition will not just confront Islamic State, but “any terrorist group in front of us”.
He added that the coalition will coordinate with the major world powers and international organisations, according to Reuters.
There was no initial word from any of the other countries involved.
The United States has been keen to see Gulf Arab states doing more to aid the military campaign against Islamic State.
The announcement of the coalition comes after Saudi Arabia succeeded in bringing Syria’s disparate opposition groups to the negotiating table.
Syrian President Bashar al Assad remains opposed to negotiating with groups that he sees as terrorists but there are hopes that Russia may force him to make concessions.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Moscow to meet with his opposite number Sergei Lavrov and Mr Putin himself to try to extract from them an agreement that while Mr Assad should probably go, much of his regime could be preserved.