Australian forces could be involved in a humanitarian mission to Iraq within days, its aim to provide food and water to thousands of refugees stranded in the north of the country.
The US asked for Australia's help at the weekend and Australia is now waiting for it to give the ''green light'' to the mission.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Saturday that US and Australian officials were in talks after the US asked Australian to consider participating in humanitarian air drops in the mountain area where some 40,000 Yazidi refugees are trapped near the city of Sinjar.
Mr Abbott said that Australia had two C-130 Hercules aircraft based in the United Arab Emirates that could be used to drop food, water and other supplies.
''We're looking to see how quickly we can get crews there,'' he said.
Mr Abbott dismissed suggestions that Australian warships could be used to launch missile strikes in Iraq, saying ''there has been no discussions along those lines whatsoever''.
US warplanes have begun strikes on Islamic militant forces, but Mr Abbott stressed that US President Barack Obama was talking about an ''essentially humanitarian mission'' in Iraq.
''There is a looming humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in northern Iraq right now,'' he said. ''Some 40,000 women and children mostly, are exposed on a mountain surrounded, as I understand it, by ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] forces that are threatening to kill them.''
The Prime Minister said that it was important Australia ''join our international partners in doing what we can to render assistance''.
This comes as Mr Abbott announced he will leave Australia in the early hours of Sunday morning to travel to Europe.
In the Netherlands he will personally thank Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte for his nation's role in leading recovery efforts after the MH17 disaster.
He will also be briefed on how the victims will be identified.
Mr Abbott will be accompanied by Defence Force head Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin and Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus, and they will also welcome back Australian personnel who have been working to recover human remains at the crash site in eastern Ukraine.
The search for victims' remains in eastern Ukraine has been suspended because of escalating clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists. Australians who had been involved in the search are now back in the Netherlands.
So far, about 23 victims have been identified; none, however, are from Australia.
On Saturday, Mr Abbott cautioned that the process of identifying and repatriating victims would not be quick.
He said that after the Bali bombings, repatriating the remains of Australian victims took between three weeks and five months.
While he is in Europe, Mr Abbott will travel to London to talk to British security and intelligence officials and senior members of the British government about counter-terrorism operations and the situation in Iraq. He will not meet David Cameron as the British Prime Minister is travelling.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will continue diplomatic efforts with US Secretary of State John Kerry when they share a VIP flight from Burma to Sydney this weekend.
The two have been in Burma for an ASEAN meeting before the annual Australia-United States security talks in Sydney this week.
Ms Bishop plans to raise the continuing fallout of the MH17 tragedy while with Mr Kerry in the air.
''I'll discuss the steps that need to be taken for the investigation into MH17 and the impact it has had on commercial aviation,'' she said, adding ''Australia is very keen to pursue this as a matter of international concern''.
Mr Abbott is due to return to Australia on Thursday.