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COBR meeting on Iraq

The Foreign Secretary chaired a further meeting of COBR to discuss the situation in Iraq and the UK's response.

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An FCO spokesperson said:

Officials from Number 10, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and Ministry of Defence attended along with representatives from the intelligence agencies and teams at our overseas missions in Baghdad, Erbil, Washington, Ankara and New York.

They discussed the situation on the ground and agreed our immediate priority remains the needs of the local communities affected, particularly those trapped on Mount Sinjar. Aid supplies including reusable filtration containers filled with clean water, and solar lights that can also recharge mobile phones have arrived in the region and the RAF will now start delivering these vital provisions alongside the US air drops. There will be a steady drumbeat of air drops in the coming days to ensure that we help to keep these people alive.

The long term solution will involve getting these people to safety. The number trapped is unclear but estimates range from 50,000 up to 150,000 people who could be stuck on this mountain and there is scant information about what supplies they have with them and their ability to find shelter. They face a desperate choice between risking dehydration and starvation or descending into the barbaric hands of ISIL terrorists. Discussions in the international community have yet to identify a safe passage for them and so officials have been tasked with working with the Kurds who have forces on the ground in the region, the United States, neighbouring countries and international aid organisations to explore how this could be done. It is clear that this work will take some time and will require substantive further consideration. That is why sustaining air drops remains our immediate priority.

Meanwhile, we continue to work on the political track. We have encouraged the Iraqis to establish an inclusive government as swiftly as possible. And in New York we are pursuing a UNSC resolution which focuses on disrupting ISIL’s financing flows. As current holders of the Presidency of the UN Security Council, we are aiming to have substantive negotiations on the draft text next week.

A further cross-Whitehall meeting of officials will take place tomorrow to take stock of the UK’s response.

Published 9 August 2014