UPDATED: May, from Baghdad, urges Kurdistan to respect Iraq unity

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi receives U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May in Baghdad (media office)

Baghdad ( British Prime Minister Theresa May has urged Iraqi Kurdistan Region to respect Iraq’s unity, urging for further dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad.

Her call came as she met Wednesday with Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad in an unannounced visit, the media office of the Iraqi premier said in a statement.

May made the visit ahead of a regional, three-day tour where she is scheduled to meet with Saudi ad Jordanian officials.

During the meeting, May reiterated support for Iraq in several fields and to improve bilateral relations, urging Iraqi Kurdistan to “respect a unified Iraq” and to “encourage dialogue”.

Relations worsened between Baghdad and Erbil over the latter’s vote in September to secede from Iraq. The Kurdish referendum was met with an international rejection.

Abadi, meanwhile, pointed to remarkable improvement in relations between Baghdad and London, lauding British air support and intelligence support during the war against the Islamic State militants. He also pointed to U.K. assistance in refugee and human rights issues.

Britain is an outstanding member of the United States-led coalition which has backed Iraqi government forces in its campaign against Islamic State militants,

U.K. government figures tell of nearly 600 British soldiers in Iraq.

May’s visit is the first by a high-ranking U.K. official since former Defense Minister Michael Fallon made a visit to Iraq.

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