Paris:  France, in consultation with its EU partners, is looking at supplying arms to Iraq’s Kurds to fight against Islamic State jihadists, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said.

“One way or another, they must receive, in a sure way, equipment that will allow them to defend themselves and to counterattack,” Fabius told France 2 television from Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq yesterday.

“We will look into that over the coming days but in liaison with the Europeans,” he said from the city, which is not far from the IS frontline.

France and Britain have pledged support for a US-led operation helping Iraqi civilians — many of them from the Yazidi minority — who are fleeing a murderous advance by Islamic State (IS) militants.

While all three Western countries are providing emergency aid for the besieged civilians, the United States has also been conducting air strikes on IS positions.

Fabius reiterated that France’s military would not intervene in Iraq without UN Security Council authorisation and a threat to French nationals. “But we commend the work the Americans are doing.”

Fabius said that Kurdish and Iraqi leaders have stressed that the IS possesses “very sophisticated weapons” looted from Iraq’s retreating army.

The minister highlighted the plight of fleeing Yazidis around their main hub of Sinjar in northern Iraq.

“There are thousands of people on Sinjar mountain as we speak who, if we don’t parachute in supplies, will die,” he said.

“In two villages there are a thousand people surrounded, and 500 women in a prison threatened with rape. The caliphate (IS) has told them: ‘You have 48 hours to renounce your religion or we’ll kill you.’ If that isn’t called genocide, I don’t know what to call it.”

Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking minority following an ancient faith rooted in Zoroastrianism. The IS fighters, who want to establish an extremist Sunni Muslim state, view them as “devil worshippers”.

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