Putin: Russia, Iraq expanding military cooperation

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was ready to supply weapons to Iraq to help it combat ISIS militants

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Moscow and Baghdad are expanding military cooperation, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday during talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in the Kremlin.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said before the talks began that Russia was ready to supply weapons to Iraq to help it combat Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, who have made further sweeping gains in Iraq and Syria over the past week.

Lavrov told reporters that Moscow would make every effort to help the Baghdad government push back the militants.

ISIS insurgents overran the Iraqi city of Ramadi last weekend in the most significant setback for the Baghdad government in a year, exposing the weakness of Iraq’s army and the limitations of U.S. air strikes. On Thursday the group seized full control of Palmyra in neighboring Syria.

Meanwhile, Abadi on Thursday also met his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev at the start of his Moscow visit.

“We understand that the threat of terrorism is enveloping not just Iraq but the neighboring countries,” Abadi told Medvedev in remarks translated into Russian.

“It evolves and takes new shapes, and we understand perfectly well that it requires heightened attention from Russia. We expect more active cooperation in this direction,” he said.

Abadi is on a diplomatic drive to rally support for tackling ISIS, travelling to Washington last month where he asked President Barack Obama to step up a U.S.-led air campaign against the militants and boost defense aid.

He is now taking the same message to Moscow, where he compared the battle with ISIS to Russia’s struggle against Nazi Germany 70 years ago.

“In a joint effort, we will be able to have victory over these new forces, similar to those that you overcame in the past,” he told Medvedev.

Russia last year delivered Mi-28 attack helicopters to the Iraqi military for use against the insurgents.

“We are glad to support and advance cooperation with Iraq at the government level,” said Medvedev.

“We highly value relations with Russia and think they have a lot of potential,” Abadi declared.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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