The UK is set to supply weapons to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Northern Iraq, which would see Britain assume a more prominent role in the country's conflict.
Foreign secretary Philip Hammond will tell EU ministers in Brussels on Friday that Britain will follow France's decision to arm the Kurdish forces, after Prime Minister David Cameron and Nick Clegg agreed the plan at a Cobra meeting.
"If it's true, we welcome and appreciate the British decision to supply us with the effective weapons that we've been asking for," said Masrour Barzani, chancellor of the Kurdish Region Security Council.
UK combat operations in Iraq ended in 2009, while the British mission in the country, referred to as Operation Telic, was brought to a close two years later.
Despite the decision to supply arms directly to Kurdish forces, government officials said Britain was not considering the opportunity of a direct intervention in Iraq and that their choice to arm the Kurds was in line with the government's policy of responding to a humanitarian crisis.
The move, however, signals a change in Britain's strategy, as the government had previously insisted that it would only deliver arms to the Kurds on behalf of other EU countries, rather than being directly involved in the supply.
Kurdish forces have been trained on armoury provided by former Soviet Union countries, meaning they're still heavily reliant on Eastern European countries for their arms and Britain is expected to provide hi-tech equipment, at least initially.
Britain's decision to play a more prominent role in the conflict comes just a day after US President Barack Obama announced that the siege of Mount Sinjar, where thousands of civilians had been stranded under the threat of IS militants, was finally over.
Downing Street described Obama's message as "good news" but it insisted Kurdish forces were in need of reinforcements.
"This is a long-term challenge and a long-term threat," one government source is quoted as saying in The Guardian. "You want to enable the forces in the region to be able to confront [Isis]."
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said it was vital for the EU to ensure Kurdish forces were well equipped to fight the Sunni militants.
"It is vital that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are able to stop the advance of [Isis] terrorists across the country [...] We will also continue our work to ensure that Kurdish forces have the military supplies they require, including transporting more equipment from eastern Europe," the source said.
"The foreign secretary will use the meeting of foreign ministers from across Europe to press for better coordination of aid and military supplies to Iraq."
The spokesperson also said Britain and the US had agreed the need for humanitarian air drops had decreased.
"We are reviewing the need for additional airdrops, given that there appear to be adequate supplies on the mountain, but we will keep the option open if we establish there is further need," he said.
"We will also maintain our Chinook helicopters in the region so we have the flexibility to help the most vulnerable if the need arises, and our Tornados will also stay out there in case we require further surveillance of the area."