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Iraqi top diplomat promises Kurdish referendum won’t affect Moscow-Baghdad ties

Iraqi Kurdistan, the country’s autonomous region, held an independence referendum on September 25, which was strongly opposed by the Baghdad
Children holding Kurdish flags run on the streets of the city of Kirkuk AP Photo/Bram Janssen
Children holding Kurdish flags run on the streets of the city of Kirkuk
© AP Photo/Bram Janssen

MOSCOW, October 24. /TASS/. The situation surrounding the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan will not affect long-standing relations between Baghdad and Moscow, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said following a meeting between co-chairs of the Russian-Iraqi intergovernmental commission.

When asked if the plebiscite in the Kurdish autonomy could affect economic cooperation between Russia and Iraq, he said that "Iraqi-Russian relations are long-standing." "They date back longer than the problems that have emerged lately. In case a need arises, then we will take it all into consideration," al-Jaafari added.

On September 25, a referendum on independence took place in Iraqi Kurdistan, the country’s autonomous region. According to the Kurdish Election Commission, more than 90% of those taking part in the plebiscite voted in favor of seceding from Iraq. Baghdad declared the referendum illegal, demanding that the Iraqi Kurdistan’s authorities return to the situation that had existed before September 25.

The situation has been particularly tense in the city of Kirkuk, which is not part of the Kurdish autonomy but joined the referendum unilaterally. On October 9, al-Abadi, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces, gave instructions to the government forces to restore security and stability in the Kirkuk province, cooperating with the Kurdish Peshmerga units and local residents. The Iraqi prime minister also said that the federal and local forces would control the disputed areas together, under the guidance of the Baghdad authorities. Besides, Baghdad has announced a plan to implement measures to strengthen control over Iraqi Kurdistan, including economic steps.

After the September 25 plebiscite, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow supported Iraq’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. At the same time, Russia has been maintaining close relations with the Iraqi Kurds, which, according to Lavrov, are no secret for Iraq’s government.