Israel the first country to back separate Kurdistan
ISRAEL: Israel has become the first country to back Iraqi Kurdistan’s bid for independence. The announcement is a reflection of the close relationship that has developed in recent years between the autonomous region and the Jewish state.
Most other countries, including traditional allies such as Britain and the United States, have urged President Barzani of Iraqi Kurdistan to put off plans to hold a referendum on independence later this month. They fear it will plunge Iraq and the wider region into even greater instability just as a coalition of forces is on the brink of reclaiming most Islamic Stateheld territory.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement came in the form of a reply to a retired Israeli general who was quoted offering his support to the PKK, the Kurdish guerrilla group. The PKK has been waging a war for autonomy in Turkey, a nominal Israeli ally, for three decades and is considered a terrorist group by the West.
‘‘The PKK is not a terrorist organisation, that’s how I see it,’’ Major General Yair Golan said at a conference. ‘‘When you look at Iran in the east, when you look at the instability in the region, a stable and unified Kurdish entity in the middle of this swamp is not a bad idea.’’
Netanyahu has attempted to improve ties with Turkey, and Israel cannot afford to be seen by its supporters to be defending a designated terrorist group.
However, Israel has quiet but strong security and business ties with Kurdistan. It is believed to have played a part in rescuing the region from economic crisis by buying oil from it, in defiance of the central Iraqi authorities in Baghdad, who have said that oil sales should be channelled through them.
Israel, Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan form part of a chain of Western allies on the fringes of anti-western Arab states such as Syria and Iran.
‘‘Israel opposes the PKK and sees it as terror group,’’ Netanyahu’s statement said. ‘‘While Israel opposes terrorism as a whole, it supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state.’’
The Kurds, who number about 35 million, are a substantial minority in four neighbouring countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. They are said to be the largest ethnic group without a nation of their own.
Iraqi Kurdistan has been running its own affairs in all but name since the Gulf War, after which the Western allies placed a no-fly zone over the area to ward off Saddam Hussein’s army. – The Times