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US arms Iraqi Kurds as France makes appeal to EU to mobilise

Members of the minority Yazidi sect who have fled the violence in the province of Dohuk on August 10, 2014.
Members of the minority Yazidi sect who have fled the violence in the province of Dohuk on August 10, 2014. REUTERS/Ari Jalal

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has called on the European Union to respond to calls for arms from Iraq’s beleagured Kurds as they start to make gains against Islamic State fighters who have overrun large swaths of northern and western Iraq.

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“It is crucial that the European Union mobilises from today to respond to this appeal for help,” said Fabius in a letter to EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.

His appeal comes as the US has begun directly providing weapons to Kurdish forces, according to a State Department spokeswoman on Monday.

"We're working with the government of Iraq to increasingly and very quickly get urgently needed arms to the Kurds," Marie Harf told CNN. "This includes the Iraqis providing their own weapons from their own stocks, and we're working to do the same thing from our stocks of weapons that we have."

Fabius’s endorsement of the Kurd’s calls for arms comes a day after he returned from Iraq where he met with Iraqi Kurdish president Massud Barzani and oversaw part of France's humanitarian effort.

Kurdish government officials have meanwhile said they do not want to see foreign troops on the ground, but that weapons support would help them defeat militants.

Three days into US air strikes, Kurdish Peshmerga forces have started to win back areas seized by the radical Sunni group including IS positions in Makhmur District, a region north of Kirkuk, and the town of Gwair.

“I would be very grateful if you could urgently mobilise the member states and the European institutions to respond,” Fabius wrote on the premise that arms and ammunition could help them “confront and beat the terrorist group Islamic State.”

France, along with Britain, has also joined US humanitarian efforts to deliver aid to the Yazidi religious minority sect who were threatened with genocide.

European envoys are also set to meet on Tuesday in Brussels for an emergency meeting on the deepening crisis in Iraq.

A source told AFP that the meeting, officially called by Italy, will most likely not result in any decision on Fabius’s call for action from the 28-member bloc.

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