Israel offers to help Arab nations over Iraq crisis

AFP , Thursday 26 Jun 2014

Avigdor Lieberman
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Photo by Reuters)

Israel offered Thursday to help moderate Arab nations threatened by a lightning offensive by Islamic militants in Iraq, as the country's top diplomat met with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Kerry at a meeting in Paris that "the extremists currently operating in Iraq will try to challenge the stability in the entire Gulf region, first of all in Kuwait," a statement from his office said.

"Israel could provide effective and reliable assistance to moderate Arab states who are dealing with extremists," it added, without going into specific details.

Just a few days after visiting Iraq, Kerry said it was "important that countries in the region stand together against the threat," according to a senior US official.

Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) have captured a swathe of territory in northern Iraq in a lightning assault which is threatening to tear the country apart.

Kerry was holding a series of meetings with Middle East allies in Paris to discuss the crisis in Iraq after visiting both Baghdad and Arbil to press Iraqi leaders to unify against the dangers posed by ISIL.

The Sunni militants have overrun vast swathes of five provinces north and west of Baghdad, leaving more than 1,000 people dead and displacing hundreds of thousands.

The conflict also appears to be broadening with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki confirming Syria's air force struck Sunni militants on the Syrian side of the Iraq-Syria border this week.

The Iraqi leader said that while Baghdad did not request the strikes, he "welcomed" any moves against the militants.

The New York Times reported meanwhile that predominantly Shiite Iran is flying surveillance drones over Iraq and sending military equipment to help Baghdad fight the Sunni insurgents.

Lieberman said Israeli interests were converging with moderate Arab nations "with both sides dealing with the threat of Iran, world jihad and Al-Qaeda, as well as the spill-over of conflicts in Syria and in Iraq to neighbouring countries."

"Today, there is a basis for the creation of a new diplomatic-political structure in the Middle East," his office said in the statement.

Lieberman also handed Kerry an appeal from the parents of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers to meet with them. One of the youngsters is a dual Israeli-American citizen.

The disappearance of the three believed kidnapped by Hamas militants has sparked a massive manhunt on the West Bank.

According to army figures, some 381 people have been detained in two weeks of searches for the teens who disappeared on June 12 while hitchhiking in the southern West Bank.

A State Department official told AFP that they have received and are "considering the request" for the parents to meet with Kerry.

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