U.S. Says Iraq Unrest Shows Need to Fight Terror Financing
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Tuesday that developments in Iraq, where jihadist-led militants have seized swathes of the country, emphasize the need to combat terror financing.
Lew told a press conference in Jeddah after talks with Saudi counterpart Ibrahim al-Assaf that close cooperation between the two countries "is even more important given our shared concerns about developments in Iraq".
"The events in Iraq also underscore the importance more broadly of redoubling our efforts to combat the financing of terrorist organizations," Lew added.
Militants spearheaded by powerful jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and joined by supporters of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, launched their lightning assault on June 9.
Since then they have captured Mosul, a city of two million people, and a big chunk of mainly Sunni Arab territory stretching south towards the capital.
Lew said he discussed with Assaf "the need for Iraqi leaders to put aside differences and implement a coordinated and effective approach to confront terrorist groups such as ISIL."
He described Riyadh as one of Washington's "most important partners in combating terrorist financing."
His comments came soon after the Iraqi government issued a statement accusing Saudi Arabia of financing Sunni Islamist militants.
"We hold (Saudi Arabia) responsible for what these groups are receiving in terms of financial and moral support," the Iraqi government said in a statement, accusing Riyadh of "siding with terrorism".
It was not the first time that Baghdad has said Riyadh is backing Sunni Islamists. In March, Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting terrorism in Iraq.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week said Maliki's "sectarian" policies against the Sunni Arab minority had triggered the unrest sweeping his country.