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IRAQ

France calls on EU to arm Iraqi Kurds

France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has called on European nations to "mobilize" and to respond to the “call for help” by arming Iraqi Kurds against radical Islamist fighters.

France calls on EU to arm Iraqi Kurds
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has suggested that weapons could be supplied to Iraq's Kurds. Photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP

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.

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".

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ISRAEL

France revives call for Israel-Palestine talks

France is looking to quickly revive plans for an international conference to "bring about the two-state solution" to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Friday.

France revives call for Israel-Palestine talks
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius arrives at a meeting with the Iranian president at the Elysee Palace on Thursday. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP
“In the coming weeks, France will take… steps in order to organise an international conference gathering each of the parties' principle partners — principally Americans, Europeans and Arabs — in order to preserve and to bring about the two-state solution,” he said in remarks to diplomats.
   
France has in recent years raised the idea of hosting an international conference to revive peace efforts which would bring in all the key players in a show of support for a final settlement of the decades-long conflict. But the idea has never taken concrete shape.
   
“We must not allow the two-state solution to fall apart,” he said, noting that there had been no halt to Israel's settlement activity on land the Palestinians want for a future state.
   
Peace talks collapsed in April 2014 and since then, the situation has deteriorated, with the prospects of fresh dialogue appearing more remote than ever.
   
A wave of Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks which began on October 1 has killed 25 Israelis, while over the same period, 159 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, most while carrying out attacks although others died in clashes and demonstrations.
 
Should efforts to breathe life into the moribund peace process fail, France would move to unilaterally recognise Palestine as a state, Fabius said.
   
“And what will happen if this last-ditch attempt at reaching a negotiated solution hits a stumbling block?” he said. “In that case, we will have to live up to our responsibilities and recognise a Palestinian state.”
   
In November 2014, the French parliament backed a motion urging the government to recognise Palestine as a state as a way of achieving a “definitive resolution of the conflict” in a move which Paris has said could happen if the peace process remained in the doldrums.
   
France has also pushed for a UN resolution that would guide negotiations leading to an independent Palestinian state and which could include a timeframe for talks.
   
Until now, France's diplomatic efforts have been largely rebuffed by Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisting that peace would only come through direct negotiations between the parties and not through UN resolutions “imposed from the outside.”
   
Earlier on Friday, the Palestinians began waging a new campaign at the United Nations to revive peace prospects, with envoy Riyad Mansour highlighting the need for a “collective approach” to solve the conflict and saying a resolution condemning Israel's settlement expansion could be a first step.
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