The Czech government is considering supplying arms to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq to assist their struggle against the jihadist group Islamic State, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek has said. The move is now being discussed by several Czech ministries along with plans to increase the country’s humanitarian aid to the region.
Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek announced plans to send weapon to the Kurdish forces in Iraq at the end of this appearance on public broadcaster Czech TV on Friday night in which he discussed developments in Iraq.
When asked whether the Czech government would increase its shipments of humanitarian aid, Mr Zaorálek said other forms of assistance for the Kurdish authorities were also being considered.
These include arms for the Kurdish Peshmerga forces faced with brutal onslaught by the jihadist Islamic State, which got hold of modern weaponry following their capture of the city of Mosul in June.
The Islamist militants have since seized a number of cities in northwest Iraq; they are threatening the Kurdish capital Arbil, and have been accused of murdering hundreds of Yazidis, members of an ancient Iraqi minority.
The United States on Friday launched airs strikes to slow down the Islamists’ advance, and has also begun proving weapons to Kurdish forces, the AP news agency reported on Monday quoting senior US officials.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has released no further details of its plans such as the extent of possible arms shipments or their timeframe. David Frous is a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.
“We are now exploring the ways of how the Czech Republic could be of help in this respect. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is discussing the possible avenues we could take with the Ministry of Defence.
“That’s where the situation is at this very moment. I would not go into any further details beyond saying the discussion are ongoing at this moment.”
In July, the Czech Foreign Ministry released three million crowns, or some 145,000 US dollars, in humanitarian aid to civilians forced out of their homes by the fighting.
But plans for direct arms shipments to the Kurdish forces have surprised many including the head of the Czech-based Kurdish Civic Association, Rashid Khalil.
“I hope the plans will eventually materialize. In recent years, the Czech foreign policy has been rather restrained even in the case of Syria.
“So I’m surprised because it is quite a daring move. But the situation on the ground is extremely serious and is bordering on genocide.”
Rashid Khalil, a Kurd form Syria who settled in the Czech Republic some 25 years ago, says his group is also planning to send humanitarian aid to Iraqi Kurdistan with the help of the Czech authorities.