French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, left, and Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani give an Aug. 10 joint press conference in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq. (Safin Hamed / AFP)
PARIS — French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday called on the European Union to “mobilize” 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 mobilizes from today to respond to this appeal for help.”
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.”
“I would be very grateful if you could urgently mobilize the member states and the European institutions to respond,” Fabius wrote to Ashton.
“It seems to me that a special meeting of the council of (European) foreign ministers would be desirable,” he added.
During his visit to Iraq on Sunday to oversee a shipment of humanitarian aid from France, Fabius said the Kurdish authorities “must receive, in a sure way, equipment that will allow them to defend themselves and to counterattack.”
“We will look into that over the coming days but in liaison with the Europeans,” Fabius told France 2 television.
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 Islamic State (IS) militants.
While all three Western countries are providing emergency aid for the besieged civilians, the United States has also been conducting air strikes on IS positions.
Fabius reiterated his call for “all the political leaders in Iraq to hold talks to find a quick political solution that is acceptable to all parts of the country.”
Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini also called earlier on Monday for a special EU meeting to discuss “Iraq, Gaza and Libya, three crises which concern Europe directly.”
“We’re not talking about military intervention but providing support, even of a military sort, to the Kurdish government,” Mogherini said.