Last updated: 26 June, 2014

Israel offers to help Arab nations over Iraq crisis

Israel offered 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 on Thursday.

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 the Israeli minister’s 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.

Asked about Lieberman’s proposal, a State Department official said that it was “not raised with regard to the specific ISIL threat that is ongoing today.”

“But Foreign Minister Lieberman did speak generally to the idea of a shared threat to all countries of the region from extremists.”

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.

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.

But such a proposal is highly unlikely to find traction among Arab countries without any progress on the currently stalemated Middle East peace process.

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 teenagers are believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas militants, sparking 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 Kerry to meet the parents.