The Netherlands is to send 1,000 flak jackets and helmets to Iraqi Kurds to help with their fight against the Islamic State, the Dutch government said on Thursday.
“It has been decided in the short term to send 1,000 combat helmets and 1,000 flak jackets to the Kurdish Regional Authorities,” Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans and Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert wrote in a letter to parliament.
Europe has stepped up its response to IS militants, who beheaded US journalist James Foley and have taken over swathes of Iraq and Syria.
At an emergency meeting last week, EU foreign ministers agreed in principle to back the arming of the overwhelmed Iraqi Kurdish fighters in the face of the IS onslaught.
The Dutch ministers said the helmets and flak jackets would only be delivered once they had guarantees from the government in Baghdad that the road to the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil was open.
The risk that the Kurds might use the equipment against an enemy other than IS, such as the Turkish military, was acceptable given the more serious threat from IS, the letter said.
US President Barack Obama has ordered air strikes on IS forces in a bid to defend Arbil and protect civilians, military action that has enabled Kurdish and Iraqi forces to push the extremists back and recapture a strategic dam.