Macron offers Iraq’s Abadi mediation with Erbil over referendum dispute

Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi (left) and France President Emmanuel Macron (right)

Baghdad ( France President Emmanuel Macron has offered his country’s mediation between Iraq and the autonomous Kurdistan Region to end a political crisis that flared after the region held a referendum that backed independence from Iraq.

“France wants Iraq to be stable after the referendum,” Macron said Thursday in a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who arrived in Paris on Wednesday for talks which Baghdad said would focus on economy and counter-terrorism.

Macron said his country is eager to see a “national reconciliation in Iraq”, reiterating his country’s backing for Baghdad in its war against Islamic State militants.

Abadi had said before heading to Paris that his visit was not going to tackle the referendum dispute, and would mainly seek enhanced economic and counterterrorism cooperation.

During the press conference, Abadi said his country was not seeking a military confrontation with Kurds, but urged Kurdish forces, the Peshmerga, to “cooperate” with Baghdad’s government while the latter works on extending its control over disputed regions.

“Our main concern is to preserve Iraq’s integrity as per the constitution for which the Kurds voted,” Abadi stated. “The federal authority has to extend to border crossings, and I call upon the Peshmerga to work with federal troops at the disputed areas.”

Baghdad and Erbil have for long disputed sovereignty over a few regions of mixed Arab and Kurdish populations, most notably oil-rich Kirkuk.

Kurdistan said last month that  92% of citizens of the region voted for independence from Iraq, a move that has drawn rejection from Baghdad and world powers.

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