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France to consider arming Iraqi Kurds battling ISIS

© AFP / Safin Hamed |Baba Sheikh (L), the spiritual leader of the Yazidis, greets France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius upon his arrival in Arbil on August 10, 2014.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-08-11

France, in consultation with its EU partners, is looking at supplying arms to Iraq’s Kurds to fight against an insurgency by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Sunday.

“One way or another, they must receive, in a sure way, equipment that will allow them to defend themselves and to counterattack,” Fabius told France 2 television from Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.

“We will look into that over the coming days but in liaison with the Europeans,” he said from the city, which is not far from the ISIS frontline.

ISIS has captured wide swaths of northern Iraq since June, executing non-Sunni Muslim captives, displacing tens of thousands of people and drawing the first US air strikes in the region since Washington withdrew troops in 2011.

After routing Kurdish forces last week, the militants are just a 30-minute drive from Arbil, which until now has been spared the sectarian bloodshed that has scarred other parts of Iraq for a decade.

Speaking at an earlier press conference with Fabius, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani asked the international community to provide the Kurds with weapons to bolster their battle against ISIS.

“We are not fighting a terrorist organisation, we are fighting a terrorist state,” he said.

Genocide

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 ISIS militants.

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

Fabius reiterated that France’s military would not intervene in Iraq without UN Security Council authorisation and a threat to French nationals. “But we commend the work the Americans are doing.”

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 (ISIS) 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.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2014-08-10

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