France approves weapons shipment to Kurdish fighters

13 August 2014 (Last Updated August 13th, 2014 18:30)

The French Government has agreed to supply weapons to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State (IS) militants in northern Iraq.

A Yazidi family

The French Government has agreed to supply weapons to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State (IS) militants in northern Iraq.

French President Francois Hollande's office said in a statement: "In order to respond to the urgent need expressed by the Kurdistan regional authorities, the president has decided, in agreement with Baghdad, to deliver arms in the coming hours.

"France intends to play an active role by providing, along with its partners and in liaison with the new Iraqi authorities, all the assistance required."

Hollande said civilians in Kurdish areas of Iraq were facing a 'catastrophic situation' that 'called for the continuation and intensification of efforts by the international community'.

"For several days, France has taken the necessary measures to support the operational capabilities of the forces fighting [the] Islamic State," Hollande said.

Paris has been calling for an emergency meeting of European Union (EU) foreign ministers to coordinate a response to the crisis, Agence France Presse reported. An EU spokesman said such a meeting is likely to take place in the coming days.

"France intends to play an active role by providing, along with its partners and in liaison with the new Iraqi authorities, all the assistance required."

France has so far supplied 18t of humanitarian aid to thousands of Yazidi refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar. They are without water, food, shade or medical supplies.

A new shipment of 20t of aid was scheduled to arrive in northern Iraq on 13 August.

Kurdish fighters have already taken delivery of weapons from the US, while Germany is reportedly preparing to deliver military equipment, including body armour, night-vision goggles, mine-detection gear and armoured vehicles, the Financial Times reported.

The French weapons shipment comes amid reports that Britain has deployed Special Air Service (SAS) soldiers to Iraq to 'gather intelligence' ahead of a potential US-led airlift of refugees from Mount Sinjar.

However, the US Department of Defense said the evacuation is unlikely as fewer refugees are trapped than previously feared.

Meanwhile, Australia has joined the US, UK and France in delivering humanitarian assistance.


Image: A Yazidi family receives food assistance in Erbil, Iraq. Photo: courtesy of WFP / Chloe Cornish.

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