Although the UK is not planning a military intervention, we are committed to finding a long-term political solution [in Iraq],' UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement as he prepared to visit the Arabian Gulf for talks with leaders of some of Iraq's neighbors. (Petras Malukas / AFP)
LONDON — British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is to hold talks with four of the leading nations in the Arabian Gulf region starting Tuesday to discuss the growing threat posed by the radical Sunni group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Hammond will swing through the Gulf meeting with the foreign and defense ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar over the next two days. The British said they will use the visit to discuss possible political solutions embracing all of Iraq’s communities.
News of Hammond’s mission comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Iraqi capital Baghdad June 23 to meet top government and religious figures from across the divided nation. Kerry is urging the Iraqi Shi’ite government of Nouri al-Maliki to form an inclusive administration including representatives of the Sunni minority.
Hammond said Britain was not planning a military intervention in Iraq but would help with counter-terrorist expertise.
Last week US President Barack Obama offered to send 300 special forces advisers to Iraq to help combat an offensive by ISIL and other Sunni minorities who have captured key towns in the country and are threatening the capital.
Ahead of his departure, Hammond said in a statement: “The UK is deeply concerned by the recent developments in Iraq and the gains made by ISIL. Although the UK is not planning a military intervention, we are committed to finding a long-term political solution.
“We remain committed to the security of the Gulf, and want to reassure our friends and allies that we will do everything possible to support those who are working for a stable and democratic Iraqi state,” he said. ■