Is­rael the first coun­try to back sep­a­rate Kur­dis­tan

Waikato Times - - WORLD -

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

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