First Published: 2017-09-13

Israel supports independent Kurdish state
Israeli PM backs Kurds' "legitimate efforts" to win state as Jewish state’s endorsement echoes remarks Netanyahu made in 2014.
Middle East Online

By Jeffrey Heller - JERUSALEM

Israel has maintained discreet military, intelligence and business ties with the Kurds since the 1960s

Israel supports the establishment of a Kurdish state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, as Kurds in Iraq gear up for a referendum on independence that lawmakers in Baghdad oppose.

Israel has maintained discreet military, intelligence and business ties with the Kurds since the 1960s, viewing the minority ethnic group -- whose indigenous population is split between Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran -- as a buffer against shared Arab adversaries.

On Tuesday, Iraq's Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said he would press ahead with the Sept. 25 referendum despite a vote by Iraq's parliament rejecting it.

"(Israel) supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state," Netanyahu said, in remarks sent to foreign correspondents by his office.

Western powers are concerned a plebiscite in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region - including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk - could divert attention from the war against Islamic State militants.

Netanyahu said Israel does however consider the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) a terrorist group, taking the same position as Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

An Israeli general told a conference in Washington last week that he personally did not regard the PKK, whose militants have been fighting Turkey for more than three decades, as a terrorist group.

Netanyahu, who is due to address the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19, voiced support for "the Kurds' aspirations for independence" in a speech in 2014, saying they deserve "political independence".

His latest remarks appeared to be a more direct endorsement of the creation of a Kurdish state.

But they will cut little ice in Baghdad, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel and has strong ties with Israel's arch-foe Iran.

Iraq's neighbours -- Turkey, Iran and Syria -- oppose the referendum, fearing it could fan separatism among their own ethnic Kurdish populations.

Kurds have sought an independent state since at least the end of World War One, when colonial powers divided up the Middle East after the collapse of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire.

 

Russia again blocks UN resolution on Syria action

Iraq retakes Rawa, last town held by IS

Riyadh striking deals with people detained in anti-graft purge

France worried by Iran's 'hegemonic' intentions

Football club a symbol for Swedish-Kurdish cohesion

UN weighs bid to save Syria gas attacks probe

IS attack kills 26 displaced people in Syria

Saudi FM says Lebanon 'held hostage by Hezbollah'

Egypt to open Rafah crossing for 3 days

Turkish troops pulled from NATO drill amid new tensions

Six children among civilians killed in shelling of Eastern Ghouta

US official calls on Sudan to stop 'church demolitions'

Hariri set to leave Saudi Arabia for France

Fears of bombs, IS cells still haunt Mosul

Iran criticises French Mideast policy

Israel military chief says ready to cooperate with Saudi Arabia

Egypt confirms death of wanted jihadist

UK denies link between citizen detained in Iran and £400m debt

Qatar sets temporary minimum wage for migrant workers

Top US official begins Sudan trip

Hamas says Israeli assassins in Tunisia used Bosnian passports

Syria army enters last IS-held town

Russia, Turkey, Iran to hold Syria summit

Saudi FM rejects accusations Hariri in Saudi Arabia against his will

Lebanon’s president awaits Hariri return before next move

Iran pushing for Hamas-Hezbollah reconciliation

French PM in Rabat to boost trade, cooperation

Ankara bans German gay film festival

Lebanon PM to travel to Paris

Libyan fighter jets strike IS camp south of Sirte

Russia, US headed for UN showdown over Syria gas attacks probe

Palestinians wait as Egypt keeps border closed

UN fails to push Saudi coalition to lift Yemen blockade

Erdogan pledges military support for Qatar on Doha visit

France pursues tough line on Iran missile programme

flydubai orders 737 MAXs worth $27bn from Boeing

Sudanese journalists oppose new press law

Turkey, Afghanistan, ex-Soviet trio sign corridor agreement

Politics aside, Lebanese want Hariri return

Lebanese president accuses Riyadh of detaining PM

Aid slow to reach Iranian villages hit by quake

Yemenis struggle as Saudi blockade wears on

Israel PM offers quake aid to arch foe Iran

US-led coalition says foreign jihadists may have escaped Raqa

Iran pledges swift aid after major earthquake