Israel offers to help Arab states fight ISIL
Israel offered to help moderate Arab nations threatened by a lightning offensive by 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."
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.
The statement comes days after Iran offered to support the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki against advancing Sunni militants.
Both Iran and Israel have been vocal about the threat of ISIL and other militants to the region.
Meanwhile, Israel told the US on Thursday that Kurdish independence from the rest of Iraq has become a "foregone conclusion", amid reports that the Iraqi autonomous and "democratic" region is exporting oil to Israel.
"Iraq is breaking up before our eyes and it would appear that the creation of an independent Kurdish state is a foregone conclusion," Lieberman's spokesman quoted him as telling Kerry.
Israeli experts expect Tel Aviv to be quick to recognise a future Kurdish state, and Israel is thought to have maintained discreet military, intelligence and business ties with the Kurds since 1960s.
During a meeting with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday, Israeli President Shimon Peres praised the Kurds.
"The Kurds have, de facto, created their own state, which is democratic. One of the signs of a democracy is the granting of equality to women," Peres said.
Meanwhile, the leader of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region said Thursday he is prepared to commit all of the region's forces to keep control of the disputed city of Kirkuk.
If needed, "we will bring all of our forces to preserve Kirkuk," said Massud Barzani, the president of Kurdish region, during a visit to the disputed oil-rich city, whichwas captured by the Kurds following an army withdrawal in the face of advancing Sunni militants.