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HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al- Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah received UK Defense Secretary Philip Hammond
‘Inclusive Iraq key to stability’ British defence chief in consultations with Kuwait

KUWAIT CITY, June 25: In his first visit to Kuwait as Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond addressed the current situation in Iraq as part of his continuing tour around the principle Gulf allies and partners of the United Kingdom.

Mr Hammond also hopes to meet with interlocutors in Kuwait, in a bid to better understand and share insight on the situation, and to find ways for Kuwait and the UK to work together to encourage a successful and sustainable resolution for the threat of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) within the region. Mr Hammond has already met with foreign and defence ministers of the governments in the UAE, and will also meet with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia and Qatar as part of his visit to the region.

Mr Hammond believes a united and inclusive Iraq is paramount to the stability of the region. “Clearly, for [stability to be achieved] there needs to be a government in Baghdad that is inclusive of all the communities in Iraq so that everybody in Iraq feels that they have a stake in the country’s future. It’s essential that we try to maintain a unified Iraq, but that will have to be an Iraq where all communities feel that they are being fairly treated, and it almost certainly will have to be a country in which there is quite a large amount of devolution to the regional areas within the country.” said Mr Hammond.

The UK currently has no plans to intervene with military force, and hopes for a political solution. The British government has made available technical support, and offer advice to quell the ISIL insurgency. Hammond stressed that the shape of the solution is for the Iraqis to determine, though a solution to satisfy the Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish communities should be implemented. “We want to work with our friends and partners in the GCC countries to help Iraq find a solution to the challenges it faces. Once it’s clear that the Iraqis have made the decision to build an inclusive government, to reach out to the Kurdish and Sunni communities, and to build an inclusive future foe Iraq, then there is a lot of support willing to come in behind that initiative.” said Mr Hammond. He added: “Iraq has the potential to be a prosperous country and if it can attain the stability and the inclusiveness that it needs, then the Iraqi people will have a bright future ahead of them.” Although US and British officials stressed the need for the next Iraqi government to include the Sunni minorities so as to provide an incentive to stay away from the ISIL militant group, who this month took over much of the north and western areas of the country, on Wednesday, Shiite Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki rejected the idea of a ‘national salvation army’ which he said would go against the results of parliamentary elections held on April 30.

Earlier this month British Prime Minister, David Cameron said it was up to the Iraqi security forces to “push back” ISIS fighters. Foreign Secretary, William Hague has prevented any UK involvement in military action in Iraq. “We don’t think the situation in Iraq can be solved by military action. It has to be solved first by creating a political consensus in Iraq so that the conditions in which ISIL has been able to make these advances are removed.” said Mr Hammond “If ISIL were to threaten third countries with physical invasion, that would be a different issue and we would want to engage with any country that felt threatened in that way. We always work closely with allies here in the Gulf in the interest of our mutual security and we would do so if we saw a direct threat towards the security of any GCC countries.” he added Mr Hague has said that as many as 400 British citizens may be fighting in Syria, including some fighting with ISIL and has threatened to cancel passports and carry out arrests on any citizens found to be involved with the ongoing insurgency. The British government is now implementing an operation targeting citizens who are classed as vulnerable to being recruited for terrorist activity.

The operation includes actively attempting to dissuade them through informing their families, monitoring their movement and activities in and out of the country, although Mr Hammond admits this has been a difficult task. “We have many UK nationals fighting in Syria. We know that many of them have crossed the border to Join ISIL in Iraq, and they are a threat to us, in terms of homeland security, they are a threat to us in terms of the potential for Iraq-Syria to become a base for international terrorism.” said Mr Hammond A small team has been sent to the British embassy in Baghdad, to aid in increasing situational awareness and prepare for a possible evacuation, and to learn what scope there may be for the British government to provide technical assistance to the Iraqi government. Mr Hammond will discuss with officials in Kuwait the challenges that Kuwait may face should the insurgency spread.

“Partciularly if there is a humanitarian crisis in Iraq as a result of displaced people, I understand that [Kuwait] will feel more challenged by it than many other countries that don’t share a border with Iraq. We will always be ready to work closely with our friends in Kuwait to try to provide any assistance and support any way we can.” added Mr Hammond The ISIL insurgency has spread throughout regions within Iraq but has encountered little resistance. The group has not demonstrated any huge level of military competence, meaning a well organized, well trained military could push them back with relative ease. Although the insurgency advanced quickly, the British government does not see it as a threat to neighboring countries.

However, the militants continue to gain high ground. Militants attempted a raid at dawn on Wednesday, on an oil refinery in the city of Beiji. Although Iraqi troops were able to repel the raid, the government is struggling to suppress the insurgency.

By: Dina Naser Arab Times Staff

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