EU backs military support for Kurds
Individual states get go-ahead to send arms as Flanagan insists Ireland’s neutral stance be respected
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton following the EU council meeting yesterday. Photograph: Laurent Dubrule/Reuters
EU foreign ministers have agreed that individual member states can provide military support to Kurds battling Islamic militants in Iraq but Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has insisted that Ireland’s neutral stance should be respected. Mr Flanagan told The Irish Times last night that he had intervened in the discussion among EU foreign ministers in Brussels yesterday to ensure that conclusions should reflect the legal and political positions of all the member states.
“I intervened along with the Swedish foreign minister to ensure a common position that would reflect the different emphases of the various EU states,” said Mr Flanagan. He said the Irish priority was to address the humanitarian crisis which has led to 1.2 million people being displaced in Iraq.
“The violence and terror unleashed against vulnerable minority populations such as Christians and the Yazidi people is simply intolerable,” said the Minister. He added that it was vitally important that the EU ministers agreed a common position.
’ “The conclusions took into account the different emphases of the different member states,” he said.
During the discussions in Brussels, Ireland, Sweden and Austria, all neutral countries, laid emphasis on the need to address the humanitarian crisis while Britain, France and the Czech Republic emphasised the need for military support for the Kurds to repel the Islamic militants.
“The issue of responding positively to the urgent requests by the Kurdish authorities for military support was discussed,” said Mr Flanagan.
“Along with a number of other EU partners I intervened to ensure that the council conclusions which were agreed fully reflected and respected the individual legal and political positions of member states in responding to such requests,” he added.
Mr Flanagan said Ireland was actively supporting the international relief effort currently under way, including through the provision of €500,000 in support of the work of Unicef and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq.”
Mr Flanagan also said it was now a priority to ensure that the new government in Iraq would represent all the people of the country, including its significant minorities. Following enormous pressure at home and abroad to step aside, Nouri al-Maliki yesterday dropped his bid for a third term as prime minister of Iraq yesterday and pledged support for his replacement, moderate Shia Haider al-Abadi.
Appearing on state television flanked by Mr Abadi and other Shia politicians, Mr Maliki spoke of the grave terrorist threat from Islamic State Sunni militants.
In Brussels the EU foreign ministers also discussed the continuing crises in Gaza and Ukraine.