France will supply arms to Iraq’s Kurds “in the coming hours”, French President Francois Hollande has announced.
France has received approval from authorities in Baghdad for the decision, French media reports say.
Kurdish forces have been fighting militants from the Islamic State (IS) group. The conflict has displaced thousands of people.
The US has also reportedly begun supplying weapons to the Kurdish forces, known as the Peshmerga.
A statement from Mr Hollande’s office said the move was “in response to the urgent need expressed by the regional authorities in Kurdistan”.
“For several days, France has had the necessary measures in place to support the operational capabilities of the forces fighting IS,” the statement said.
“The catastrophic situation faced by the population of Iraqi Kurdistan means the international community must step up its mobilisation,” it went on.
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel: “This is not a combat boots on the ground kind of operation”
Earlier the US announced it had sent 130 more military advisers to the Kurdish region.
The marines and special operations forces will assess the humanitarian situation and will not be engaged in combat, a US defence official said.
The US has been carrying out air strikes against IS fighters in northern Iraq.
The political leader of Iraq’s Kurds, Massoud Barzani, had on Sunday appealed for international military aid to help defeat the Islamist militants.
The United Nations has said that tens of thousands of civilians, including members of the Yazidi sect, are trapped on Mount Sinjar by IS fighters and need “life-saving assistance”.
The US, Britain and France have been delivering humanitarian aid to the Yazidis trapped in the north.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki continued to express defiance of moves to replace him.
In his weekly televised address, Mr Maliki denounced the appointment of a political rival, Haider al-Abadi, to replace him as a “violation” of the Iraqi constitution.
He said he would not give up power until until Iraq’s federal court issued a ruling on an objection that he filed against the nomination.
However, with the US and Iran in rare agreement over removing the man who was once their favoured candidate, Mr Maliki’s words may ring hollow, the BBC’s Sebastian Usher reports.
With even his own Shia power base having turned against him, any long-term defiance by Mr Maliki only risks worsening Iraq’s desperate political crisis, our correspondent adds.
The snub to Mr Maliki came after months of political infighting, which experts say has contributed to Iraq’s inability to fight the IS threat.
On Tuesday, a suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint near the home of Mr Abadi in Baghdad, Reuters news agency reported, citing security sources and local media.
There were no details on casualties.