Russia, Iraq to Expand Military Cooperation

Russia, Iraq to Expand Military CooperationRussia, Iraq to Expand Military Cooperation

Russia offered visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi military and other aid on Thursday to help push back Islamic State militants who have made further sweeping gains in both Iraq and Syria this week.

In going ahead with his visit to Moscow despite the worsening security crisis, Abadi said he had wanted to underline the importance of his country's ties with Russia, adding that he had disregarded "certain forces" advising him to cancel the trip, Reuters reported.

"We are expanding cooperation in the area of military technology," Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the start of talks with Abadi in the Kremlin, hailing Iraq as an "old and reliable partner in the region."

"Our relations are developing very successfully ... Our companies are working in your country and we are talking of investments in the order of billions of dollars," Putin added, without elaborating.

The advances by IS, which captured the Iraqi city of Ramadi last weekend and on Thursday was tightening its grip on the historic city of Palmyra in neighboring Syria, have exposed the shortcomings of Iraq's army and the limitations of US airstrikes.

Lavrov Underlines Anti-IS Efforts

Earlier on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would make every effort to help Iraq defeat IS, whose capture of Ramadi last weekend was the most significant setback for the Baghdad government in a year.

"We are focused on developing ties in all spheres, including military-technical cooperation, economic cooperation and cooperation in the oil and gas sector," Abadi said, ahead of talks in Moscow between the Russian and Iraqi leaders.

Lavrov also discussed the situation in Syria and Yemen as well as Ukraine with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"The situation in Syria and Yemen, including efforts by the international community to facilitate the start of a peace process in both the 'hot spots', was the focus," the ministry said.

Meanwhile The Pentagon said on Thursday the US would deliver 2,000 AT-4 anti-tank rockets to Iraq as early as next week, 1,000 more than announced on Wednesday, to help Baghdad combat suicide car bombings by IS.

Spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said the delivery would help Iraq defend against approaching suicide bombers driving vehicles packed with explosives, attacks used by IS militants last weekend to help them seize Ramadi from Iraqi forces.