Berlin: Germany will airlift relief supplies for thousands of Yezidis and other religious minorities fleeing the terror of the Islamic State (IS) militants in northern Iraq, amidst indications that it may also deliver weapons to the Kurdish forces fighting the Jihadists.
The first four Transall transport aircraft of the German army carrying around 36 tonnes of food, medicines, blankets and other humanitarian aid will fly to the northern Iraqi city of Erbil today, the Defence Ministry announced yesterday.
In Erbil, they will be handed over to UN orgasnisations for further distribution among the the refugees pouring into the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, it said in a statement.
Germany yesterday pledged 20 million euros for emergency humanitarian assistance in addition to 4.4 million euros committed earlier. This comes in the wake of fresh appeal from the UN for international support to ease the sufferings of the displaced population.
The UN on Thursday declared the crisis in northern Iraq the highest level of emergency affecting more than 1 million people. Around 50,000 displaced people are yet to find a refuge in the Kurdish area, according to UN estimates.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has indicated that supplying arms to the Iraqi and Kurdish forces is an option for her government.
Referring to a constitutional ban on exporting German weapons to a conflict zone, she said in a newspaper interview "we should make use of the room for manoeuvre, which gives us the political and legal framework for arms export".
"The atrocities perpetrated on the minorities in northern Iraq -Yesidis, Christians and others-- by the Islamic State militants are shocking. Checking the advance of this extremist group and helping the victims of their terror is a responsibility of the entire international community," the chancellor said.
Similar views were also expressed by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said earlier Germany will support he Iraqi army`s efforts to fight IS militants by supplying non-lethal military aid such as armoured vehicles, helmets, night vision equipment etc.
Pressure has been mounting on Germany to supply weapons to the Kurdish forces since the US and France began arming them. EU foreign ministers are set to hold an emergency meeting in Brussels on Friday to work out a common position on supplying arms to Iraq and assisting the displaced population.