UK & World News

  • 15 August 2014, 19:43

Foreign Ministers Agree To Arm Kurds In Iraq

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels have agreed to arm Kurdish fighters battling Islamist militants in northern Iraq.

Prior to the meeting, France, Germany, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands all said they were prepared to supply weapons to the Peshmerga forces.

It comes after Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond described Islamic State (IS) as a "terrible threat" and the UN designated the humanitarian situation in the country a "level three emergency".

The meeting of foreign ministers from the 28 EU nations, called by EU foreign policy chief BaronessAshton, followed reports of thousands of Yazidi refugees stranded in the Sinjar Mountains.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Foreign Minister, said: "Iraq is on the brink of a true catastrophe. A million people in Iraq are fleeing their homes.

"In northern Iraq, in the Kurdish part, Yazidis and Christians are being persecuted and slaughtered."

Defence matters are normally the responsibility of member states, so the EU approval to send weapons is rare.

But governments are also concerned that IS could attract radicals from Europe who then return to the West.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Friday targeting Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria.

The document places six Islamist leaders from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other nations on an al Qaeda sanctions list - which allows for a travel ban and asset freezes.

Earlier this week, the European Commission said it would increase humanitarian aid to Iraq to ?17m (13.6m).