US 'willing to negotiate' between Iraqi Kurdistan and Baghdad

US 'willing to negotiate' between Iraqi Kurdistan and Baghdad
The US State Department said it would be willing to negotiate between the conflicting Iraqi Kurds and Baghdad if requested, amid rising tensions following the controversial referendum vote.
3 min read
29 September, 2017
Tensions have increased since this week's referendum vote [Getty]
The United States said it would be willing to help facilitate conversations between Iraqi Kurds and Baghdad in an attempt to ease tensions between the two sides after a controversial Kurdish referendum vote.

The US State Department said "the United States, if asked, would be willing to help facilitate a conversation between the two," State Department spokesman Heather Nauert told a briefing, underscoring that Washington would not engage unless asked.

The United States and other major western powers have urged against the referendum, and the UN Security Council warned it was "potentially destabilising".

The only nation to back Kurdish independence is Israel.

The comments came days after Iraqi Kurds announced an overwhelming "yes" for independence on Wednesday following a referendum that has incensed Baghdad and sparked regional and international concern.

Official results showed that 92.73 percent of voters backed statehood in Monday's non-binding referendum, with turnout estimated at 72.61 percent.

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said the vote would not lead to an immediate declaration of independence but should instead open the door to negotiations.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told parliament on Wednesday that there was no question of using the results as the basis for talks.

"The referendum must be annulled and dialogue initiated in the framework of the constitution. We will never hold talks based on the results of the referendum," Abadi said.

"We will impose Iraqi law in the entire region of Kurdistan under the constitution," he said.

In response to the vote, Baghdad ordered all international flights to the Iraqi-Kurdish capital Erbil will be suspended from Friday.

Regional carriers, including Turkish Airlines, EgyptAir and Lebanon's Middle East Airlines had already announced that they would be suspending their flights on Baghdad's request.

UAE-based Air Arabia and low-cost carrier FlyDubai said they would also suspend flights, while Doha-based Qatar Airways announced that it would comply with the civil aviation authority's ruling.

Meanwhile, Turkey told Iraq it would deal only with the Iraqi government on crude oil exports, the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Thursday.

In a phone call with Abadi, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim "confirmed the support of his country to all decisions" taken or sought by the Iraqi government in Baghdad after the independence referendum held in Iraqi Kurdistan on Monday, Abadi's office said in a statement.

Among these measures, the statement mentioned "restricting oil export (operations) to the Iraqi government".

It didn't give more details or say how Ankara would deal with current crude exports from Iraqi Kurdistan.

Ahead of the September 25 vote, Iraq's parliament asked al-Abadi to send troops to the Kurdish-held region of Kirkuk and take control of its oilfields following the referendum results.

Left without a state of their own when the borders of the Middle East were redrawn after World War I, the Kurds see themselves as the world's largest stateless people.

The non-Arab ethnic group of between 25 and 35 million is spread across Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria.