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France calls on EU to arm Iraqi Kurds

AFP/The Local · 11 Aug 2014, 13:11

Published: 11 Aug 2014 13:11 GMT+02:00

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French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday called on the European Union to "mobilise" to respond to appeals from Iraq's Kurds for arms to fight Islamic State jihadists.

In a letter to EU foreign affairs supremo Catherine Ashton, Fabius said: "It is crucial that the European Union mobilises from today to respond to this appeal for help.

Fabius, who has just returned from a trip to Iraq where he met Iraqi Kurdish president Massud Barzani, explained that the latter had stressed "the urgent need for weapons and ammunition that would allow them to confront and  beat the terrorist group Islamic State."

"I would be very grateful if you could urgently mobilise the member states and the European institutions to respond," Fabius wrote to Ashton.

"It seems to me that a special meeting of the council of (European) foreign ministers would be desirable," he added.

During his visit to Iraq on Sunday to oversee a shipment of humanitarian aid from France, Fabius said the Kurdish authorities "must receive, in a sure way, equipment that will allow them to defend themselves and to counterattack."

"We will look into that over the coming days but in liaison with the Europeans," Fabius told France 2 television.

France and Britain have pledged support for a US-led operation helping Iraqi civilians - many of them from the Yazidi minority - who are fleeing a murderous advance by Islamic State (IS) militants.

While all three Western countries are providing emergency aid for the besieged civilians, the United States has also been conducting air strikes on IS positions.

Fabius reiterated his call for "all the political leaders in Iraq to hold talks to find a quick political solution that is acceptable to all parts of the country."

Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini also called earlier on Monday for a special EU meeting to discuss "Iraq, Gaza and Libya, three crises which concern Europe directly."

"We're not talking about military intervention but providing support, even of a military sort, to the Kurdish government," Mogherini said.

Fabius previously said that Kurdish and Iraqi leaders have stressed that the IS possesses "very sophisticated weapons" looted from Iraq's retreating army.

Story continues below…

The minister highlighted the plight of fleeing Yazidis around their main hub of Sinjar in northern Iraq.

"There are thousands of people on Sinjar mountain as we speak who, if we don't parachute in supplies, will die," he said.

"In two villages there are a thousand people surrounded, and 500 women in a prison threatened with rape. The caliphate (IS) has told them: 'You have 48 hours to renounce your religion or we'll kill you.' If that isn't called genocide, I don't know what to call it."

Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking minority following an ancient faith rooted in Zoroastrianism. The IS fighters, who want to establish an extremist Sunni Muslim state, view them as "devil worshippers".

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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