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US "urgently" shipping weapons to arm Iraqi Kurds against jihadists

France is calling on the European Union to follow suit.

Image: AP Photo/Hussein Malla

The United States has begun urgently shipping arms and ammunition to the Iraqi Kurdish forces battling an advance by extremist Islamic State militants, a State Department spokeswoman said 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.

Harf said the effort had been underway since last week, but did not say which US agency was leading the effort or how many and what type of weapons had been sent.

The United States has a consulate and other facilities in Arbil, capital of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region, and last week President Barack Obama announced air strikes to protect the city from the IS advance.

Mideast Iraq File photo of Kurdish peshmerga fighters. Source: AP Photo/Hussein Malla

Efforts to support Kurdish peshmerga forces could complicated the United States’ ties to the Iraqi government in Baghdad, which is also fighting the Islamic State but has tense relations with Arbil.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has 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.”

France Middle East French Foreign Ministry Laurent Fabius Source: Francois Mori

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.”

European Union envoys are due to meet tomorrow for an emergency meeting over the deepening crisis in Iraq, an EU diplomatic source said.

Fine Gael Louth Senator Jim D’Arcy, who is a member of the Council of Europe ad hoc committee observing the Turkish Presidential Election, said earlier today that Kurds in the south of Turkey are facing a “real threat”.

“As a member of the Committee observing the Turkish Presidential Election, I was based in the south in Diyarbakir which is a Kurdish Province close to the border with Syria and Iraq, and there is no doubt that ISIS pose a real threat to peace and security in the region,” he said.

The Kurds feel that they are the forgotten people and that nobody cares about their situation. They are hoping that Mr Erdogan [the new Turkish prime minister] will stand up and be counted on the issue but they are not confident.

D’arcy added that the elections there appeared the elections “appeared fair and free”.

Earlier today, Britain was forced to abort a second airdrop of humanitarian aid to refugees in northern Iraq on Monday over fears about hitting the people below, a military spokesman said.

Another attempt to deliver desperately needed food and water to Yazidis who fled Islamic State (IS) jihadists and are stranded on Mount Sinjar is likely to take place within the next 24 hours.

The safety of the Yazidi community is paramount,” a spokesman for the Royal Air Force (RAF) said.

With a number of people at the drop sites this morning, the crew made the responsible decision not to carry out the air drop to ensure that the lives of those in the area would not be put at risk.

“We plan to deliver the next drop as soon as possible.”

- © AFP, 2014, additional reporting by Nicky Ryan

Read: US considers rescue mission for trapped Yazidi refugees in Iraq >

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