News / Middle East

EU Ministers Approve Arming Iraqi Kurds

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton speaks during a meeting of European Union (EU) foreign ministers at the EU Council in Brussels, Aug.15, 2014.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton speaks during a meeting of European Union (EU) foreign ministers at the EU Council in Brussels, Aug.15, 2014.
VOA News

European Union leaders have approved sending arms to Kurdish forces who are battling Islamic extremists in northern Iraq.

At an emergency meeting in Brussels Friday, EU foreign ministers did not agree that all member states would send weapons, but welcomed the decision by individual countries to do so.

France is already arming the Kurds. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says London will likely also send weapons, while German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Germany will do "whatever is legally and politically possible."  

Hammond says the European Council's conclusions Friday "will show the commitment of European countries to pushing back against the threat" of Islamic State militants, who have taken over large parts of northwestern Iraq.

The meeting in Brussels came a day after embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave into international pressure to step aside and support his nominated replacement, Haider al-Abadi.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Friday, ahead of the ministers' meeting, that the bloc is "pleased" about the presence of al-Abadi and hopes to see "greater political stability now in Iraq."

Pressure has been building on the EU to help stop the Islamic State offensive in Iraq. Many warn the militants could eventually use the territory to launch attacks on the West.

But the EU has been split on how to handle the crisis. Some nations, including Britain and France, have followed the United States' lead in helping arm the outmanned Kurdish forces. The U.S. has also been conducting air strikes against the militants.

Other countries, including Germany, have been reluctant to involve themselves in the conflict, preferring instead to send humanitarian aid.

  • About 1.5 million people have been displaced by fighting in Iraq since the Islamic State's rapid advance began in June. Displaced Iraqis settle at this new camp, in Feeshkhabour town, Iraq,  Aug. 19, 2014.
  • Displaced Iraqis receive clothes provided by a charity, in Feeshkhabour town, Iraq, Aug. 19, 2014. 
  • Iraqi lawmaker Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, center, speaks as lawmakers listen during a press conference in Baghdad, Aug. 19, 2014. 
  • Displaced Iraqis carry clothes provided by a charity at a refugee camp, in Feeshkhabour town, Iraq, Aug. 19, 2014. 
  • Germany's armed forces began sending aid supplies to northern Iraq where thousands of people have fled Islamic State militants, in Alt Duvenstedt, northern Germany, Aug. 15, 2014.
  • A tank belonging to Kurdish peshmerga troops fire at Islamic State militant positions from the frontline in Khazer, Aug. 14, 2014.
  • Women and children from the minority Yazidi sect fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar walk to a refugee camp in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province, Aug. 14, 2014.

raq's military has proven unable to deal with the Sunni extremists. Maliki, a Shi'ite, is widely accused of failing to unite Iraq's fractious Sunni, Kurdish and Shi'ite communities during his eight-year tenure.

In what was viewed as a major political breakthrough on Thursday, Maliki pledged his full support for al-Abadi.

"I can say to you, the honorable Iraqi people, that I do not want any post, but my great post is your confidence in me and today I declare in front of you that in order to facilitate the political process and to form a new government, I am relinquishing my candidacy for the sake of my fellow, Mr. Haider al-Abadi, in order to save the high interest of the country," he said.

The White House late Thursday praised the political development, saying Maliki's backing of nominee Abadi marks "another major step forward in uniting the country."  National Security Adviser Susan Rice noted statements of global support for Abadi.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the decision. In a statement, Ban said he looks forward to the "swift formation of an inclusive, broad-based government."

The Maliki resignation comes just three days after he took to the airwaves to announce he would not accept the Abadi nomination.  Maliki and his backers argued that he was entitled to the nomination for a third term by law because his political bloc is the largest in parliament.

The U.S. Central (military) Command said Thursday that U.S. fighter jets and drones attacked and destroyed two heavily armed vehicles operated by militants who had been firing on Kurdish forces in the north.  Authorities say one of the two airstrikes targeted an armored truck thought to have been supplied by U.S. forces to the Iraqi military and later captured by militants.

The latest U.S. strikes are the second such action in as many days. President Barack Obama said the strikes have broken the militant group's siege on a northern mountain where members of Iraq's religious and ethnic minorities had sought refuge.

Obama said the situation on Mount Sinjar has greatly improved, and said he does not believe an additional operation will be needed to evacuate the refugees.

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Comment Sorting
by: kulpunai from: Turkey
August 16, 2014 1:29 AM
Reading this news article I ask the quetion "why the UN, EU are doing nothing about the genocide in Gazza?" while the situation in Gazza and Irak relatively the same thing/ In first case we have the terrorist country and in second the terrorist groups, both of them are oppressing the civilians!!!

by: walter from: India
August 15, 2014 12:53 PM

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 15, 2014 11:42 AM
There is nothing the Iraqi situation needs now more than an effort to resettle the country and remove IS forces forever. One should think that the country has had more than its fair share of troubles, civil wars and islamist/terrorist insurgency. Now that there is some talking what to do for Iraq, it is important to suggest that without military option, boot on the ground, the solution might not be effective. It is not just air raids and aerial strikes/bombardment which may or may not achieve the desired combing out of all terrorist cells in the mountain regions and restore peace to Irbil, Yazidi, Christian and Kurdish peoples out there.

A lot of money can be raised in the EU meetings, but money cannot buy everything. Supporting Iraq once again with inflow of weapons that Islamic State is going to twist their arm and collect from the army is now a far cry from the required solution. But the EU has a good following in Africa and Asia. My suggestion is to raise good money to prosecute the campaign, use it to equip former colonies in Africa and Asia by not just buying the military ware required for the campaign but also ensure good life for families of soldiers that can be deployed to fight in Iraq, hence boot on the ground of European soldiers that are by now pissing inside their pants means Islamic State has already defeated the EU before it started.

But I am sure African and Asian armies will be more willing to be engaged to rout ISIS which has taken position in northwest Iraq, unlike the terrorists operating in Africa and Asia that dress up from among civilians in a supposedly peaceful place, enter the bush and wear hood to turn terrorist against the population, and after the days fight, remove the hoods and return to the same homes/barracks to meet the same people they fought earlier. In other words, the terrorist in Nigeria are the same people that are fighting against it. So keep them busy in far away Iraq with something to show for it also, instead of being idle and make the government pursue their shadows. What name will the force to be raised called - UN/EU/NATO peacekeeping force?

by: meanbill from: USA
August 15, 2014 10:55 AM
al-Baghdadi from "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" came and (recruited) from Syria, the thousands of (foreign) Sunni Muslim ultra-extremists from around the world, (who had no loyalty or allegiance to anybody), that were armed and trained by the US and NATO in Jordan and Turkey, to wage war on Shia Muslim Syria, into the bulk of his (ISIL) al-Baghdadi Sunni Muslim army, to establish the Sunni Muslim "Caliphate of all Islam" and defeated most of the other Syrian militias, or forced them to submit and join his (ISIL) army....

The Sunni Muslims in "Al-Qaeda of Iraq" and in the Iraq army, and the Sunni Muslim tribes in the cities and towns forming the "Sunni Triangle" and the "Triangle of Death" voluntarily joined with the (ISIL) al-Baghdadi Sunni Muslim army, (to wage war on the Shia Muslim led government of Iraq), and they swore the (Bay'ah) oath of allegiance to al-Baghdadi, to obey and submit to him, and not wage war on him, as long as it did not disobey the laws of Allah, (and), to make Allah's word supreme in the world, and restore the glory of Sunni Muslim Islam.... in the "Caliphate of all Islam"

by: Genesis from: Earth
August 15, 2014 9:07 AM
The US government just doesn't understand that Islam opposes democracy and to stop any bombing by the drones they will try to appear they accept the terms. Meanwhile Islam marches on doing what followers do best, genocide, murder, beheadings, slavery, kidnapping, rape, piracy, bombings, robbery, extortion and any other crime they can dream up against humanity.

by: Lawrence Bush from: Houston, USA
August 15, 2014 8:27 AM
Eyeing upon the world terror and insurgencies, our govt. and our friendly states in the European continent, the Afro-Asiatic states do collectivise to fight against. The Brussels meeting of the EU does mean that, of course.But the situation in Iraq is grave, complex and vitious. Fore-seeing the devolopments to act; and, to act aftermath, failing to judge such happenings to take place.......... there does remain differences. After the ISIL attained its statehood taking one-third of the Iraqi territory, the inefficiencies of the Iraqi politicians, govt. and the defense came to surface; then, our govt. and our friendly states do come to consciousness that something grave has happened in Iraq.

It's just like the incendiary activity happens; and then, we do summon the fire-brigades to reach and go for actions to exitinguish fire.......... The unfortunate government forming transition ends as premier Maliki steps down, paving the path for Dr. Abadi to form an inclusive govt. Alright. But the challenges remaining for the new premier is formidable. How he deals with such challenges, entire world does await to watch. Even if Dr. Abadi forms an inclusive govt., in the remaining Iraqi territory, the Shihaites, the Sunnis, the Kurds, the Turkomans, the Yazidis ....... the rest minority communities are satisfied in their new govt., still the reduced, hacked out territory by the ISIL does remain as a problem that's to challenge the Abadi govt. in time to come ahead. No assisting state does give any kind of guarantee to the Iraqi govt. as the Iraqi territory that's under the ISIL statehood would be liberated from the very clutches of the ISIL under any international assistances. Under such circumstances, how the Abadi govt. does act that certainly, necessarily await to be seen.

by: aj fraser from: france
August 15, 2014 7:55 AM
3 days ago his appointment was warmly welcomed by all the Iranian leadership,so don't expect any improvements soon.the US now has to rely on Iran for help in this mess,they must be over the moon.ISIS appears to be unstoppable and seems about to enter Bagdad.

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