Iraq’s prime minister Haider al-Abadi, in Paris on bi-lateral talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, has stressed he does not want an armed clash with Kurdish Iraqi authorities and urged Peshmerga forces in disputed areas to work with Iraqi security forces under the control of the central government.
Kurdish-held northern regions last month voted for independence in a referendum declared illegal by Baghdad.
Meanhile France has offered to mediate in the political crisis pitting Iraq’s government against Kurdish regional authorities, and promised to maintain a military presence there until Islamic State was defeated.
“We plead for the recognition of the Kurds’ rights within the constitution. There is a way, a way of respecting peoples’ rights, political inclusion but also that allows the preservation of the established constitutional frame, stability and the territorial integrity of Iraq,” said the French president.
Abadi said his government’s concern was to preserve Iraq’s sovereignty within the Iraqi constitution which was adopted by a massive majority of Iraqis in 2005.
“This constitution brings together all Iraqis. Our fellow citizens who are Kurds also voted for this constitution. Separatism does not figure in this constitution and it is not acceptable,” he said.
The outcome of the referendum has raised concerns in Iraq and abroad that a conflict might break out there along ethnic lines, potentially weakening a U.S.-backed campaign against Islamic State, which still holds pockets of territory in Iraq and Syria.