FM: Iraq facing 'mortal threat' from militants
Updated: 2014-06-12 06:55
By Agencies in Geneva (China Daily)
Iraqi families fleeing violence in the northern Nineveh province gather at a Kurdish checkpoint in Aski Kalak, 40 km west of Arbil, in the autonomous Kurdistan region, on Tuesday. Safin Hamed
Baghdad to cooperate with Kurds in fight against jihadi forces
The fall of the major northern Iraqi city of Mosul to insurgents must push the country's leaders to work together and deal with the "mortal threat" facing Iraq, the country's foreign minister said on Wednesday.
Speaking in Athens on the sidelines of a meeting of European Union and Arab League foreign ministers, Hoshyar Zebari said he had assured his colleagues there would be "closer cooperation" between Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional government to push the insurgents out of Mosul.
Most of the city was seized on Tuesday in a major assault by al-Qaida-inspired militants known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, who took control of government buildings and pushed out security forces as thousands of residents fled. The International Organization for Migration said on Wednesday that some 500,000 residents had fled Mosul and surrounding areas.
Zebari said it was "dramatic" for a large city like Mosul to fall and the security forces to be overrun, but added he was confident Iraqi security forces, along with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, would be able to push back the insurgents.
"There will be a closer cooperation between Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional government to work together and try to flush out these foreign fighters," he told a small group of reporters.
Zebari, who is from Mosul himself, said there was no time to lose.
"You cannot leave these people to stay there, to entrench themselves for a long time. So there has to be really a quick response to what has happened," he said.
Zebari did not give details about the possible cooperation between national government forces and those of the Kurdish Peshmerga. The Peshmerga have long been a force in the jockeying between Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis for influence and control of northern Iraqi oilfields.
Earlier on Wednesday, security sources said ISIL militants advanced into the oil refinery town of Baiji, setting the courthouse and police station on fire. The Baiji refinery can process 300,000 barrels per day and supplies oil products to most of Iraq's provinces and is a major provider of power to Baghdad.
The foreign minister said he hoped the recent military gains by ISIL would encourage Iraqi leaders to come together "to face this serious, mortal threat to the country".
"It could be an inducement to all of them to think about the greater interest and to resolve the problems and to form a new government on the basis of a national unity government," he said.