France and Italy call for snap EU meeting on Iraq
France and Italy have urged the EU foreign service to call an emergency meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the situation in Iraq.
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius made the appeal to EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton in a letter made public by AFP on Monday (11 August).
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"I would be very grateful if you could urgently mobilise the member states and the European institutions to respond … It seems to me that a special meeting of the council of foreign ministers would be desirable”, he said.
Fabius, who met with the leader of Iraq’s Kurdish enclave, Massud Barzani, in Iraq on Sunday, noted that Barzani had appealed to him for “weapons and ammunition that would allow them to confront and beat the terrorist group [the] Islamic State”.
Meanwhile, Italy’s foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, who hopes to take over Ashton’s post in November, told Italian radio on Monday that she had also written to the EU foreign affairs chief with a similar request over the weekend.
She said the special foreign ministers’ meeting should discuss the situation in Gaza and Libya as well as Iraq.
"We're not talking about military intervention but providing support, even of a military sort, to the Kurdish government [in Iraq] … Several countries are making a move, but the initiative must be European,” Mogherini said.
The EU concern comes amid the Islamic State’s (IS) assaults on Iraq’s Christian and Yazidi minorities in recent days.
The US launched air strikes against IS fighters last week, while Ashton in a statement on Sunday said: "We are appalled by the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation with hundreds of thousands civilians, mainly from minorities, fleeing the areas of conflict as a result of persecution and violation of basic human rights”.
She added: “Some of these acts may constitute crimes against humanity and must be investigated swiftly”.
The crisis in Iraq also deepened on Monday when the country’s president asked parliament speaker Haider al-Abadi to form a new government to replace the existing PM, Nouri Maliki.
Maliki, a Shia Muslim, is blamed for exasperating the situation by trampling on the rights of Iraq’s Sunni Muslims, some of whom have sided with the IS's Sunni fighters.
His party won the most seats in Iraq’s elections in April and reports indicate that pro-Maliki militias in Baghdad are preparing to back his rule with force if need be.
But EU countries in a communique on Monday said they “welcome” the Abadi move.
“This decision is a positive step in the constitutional process towards the formation of a new government. We encourage the designated prime minister and all Iraqi political leaders to intensify their efforts to achieve the speedy formation of a new government that is inclusive, preserves national unity and is able to address the present crisis”, they said.