Is­rael leader en­dorses in­de­pen­dent Kur­dish state

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Is­rael sup­ports the es­tab­lish­ment of a Kur­dish state, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said yes­ter­day, as Kurds in Iraq gear up for a ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence that law­mak­ers in Baghdad op­pose. Is­rael has main­tained dis­creet mil­i­tary, in­tel­li­gence and busi­ness ties with the Kurds since the 1960s, view­ing the mi­nor­ity eth­nic group-whose in­dige­nous pop­u­la­tion is split be­tween Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran-as a buffer against shared Arab ad­ver­saries.

On Tues­day, Iraq’s Kur­dish leader Mas­soud Barzani said he would press ahead with the Sept 25 ref­er­en­dum de­spite a vote by Iraq’s par­lia­ment re­ject­ing it. “(Is­rael) sup­ports the le­git­i­mate ef­forts of the Kur­dish peo­ple to achieve their own state,” Ne­tanyahu said, in re­marks sent to for­eign cor­re­spon­dents by his of­fice. Western pow­ers are con­cerned a plebiscite in Iraq’s semi-au­ton­o­mous Kur­dish re­gion - in­clud­ing the oil-rich city of Kirkuk - could di­vert at­ten­tion from the war against Is­lamic State mil­i­tants.

Ne­tanyahu said Is­rael does how­ever con­sider the Turkey-based Kur­dis­tan Work­ers Party (PKK) a ter­ror­ist group, tak­ing the same po­si­tion as Turkey, the United States and the Euro­pean Union. An Is­raeli gen­eral told a con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton last week that he per­son­ally did not re­gard the PKK, whose mil­i­tants have been fight­ing Turkey for more than three decades, as a ter­ror­ist group. Ne­tanyahu, who is due to ad­dress the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly on Sept 19, voiced sup­port for “the Kurds’ as­pi­ra­tions for in­de­pen­dence” in a speech in 2014, say­ing they de­serve “po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dence”.

His lat­est re­marks ap­peared to be a more di­rect en­dorse­ment of the cre­ation of a Kur­dish state. But they will cut lit­tle ice in Baghdad, which has no diplo­matic re­la­tions with Is­rael and has strong ties with Is­rael’s arch-foe Iran. Iraq’s neigh­bors-Turkey, Iran and Syria-op­pose the ref­er­en­dum, fear­ing it could fan sep­a­ratism among their own eth­nic Kur­dish pop­u­la­tions. Kurds have sought an in­de­pen­dent state since at least the end of World War One, when colo­nial pow­ers di­vided up the Mid­dle East af­ter the col­lapse of the multi-eth­nic Ot­toman Em­pire. —Reuters

AKRA: Iraqi Kurds wave Kur­dish flags and hold torches as they gather to show sup­port for the up­com­ing in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum and to en­cour­age peo­ple to vote in the town of Akra, some 500 kilo­me­ters north of Baghdad. —AFP

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