Press TV – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is lobbying world powers to support the independence of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region from the rest of the Iraqi territory, as Kurdish Peshmerga forces are losing ground to Iraqi army forces in the country’s oil-rich northern province of Kirkuk.
Israeli officials, requesting anonymity, said Netanyahu raised the Kurdish plans for independence with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, and with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.
The 67-year-old Chairman of the Likud party also made a reference to the issue in his contacts with French authorities.
An Israeli official, who declined to be named, stated that the Tel Aviv regime has security interests in Kurdistan.
“This (territory) is a foothold. It’s a strategic place. It would be best if someone gave them weaponry, and whatever else, which we cannot give, obviously,” the official said without providing further detail.
Israel has maintained military, intelligence and business ties with Iraqi Kurds since 1960s.
“The issue at present is … to prevent an attack on the Kurds, extermination of the Kurds and any harm to them, their autonomy and region, something that Turkey and Iran and … other powers in Iraq and part of the Iraqi government want,” Israeli Intelligence Minister, Israel Katz, alleged in an interview with Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM on Friday.
“The prime minister is certainly engaging the United States, Russia, Germany and France to stop the Kurds from being harmed,” Katz said.
On Friday, Iraqi government forces wrested control of a strategic sub-district of Kirkuk province following clashes with Peshmerga forces.
“Iraqi Federal Police and Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces, along with fighters from Popular Mobilization Units – commonly known by the name Hashd al-Sha’abi, have secured Kirkuk’s northern Altun Kupri sub-district,” the Iraqi Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Iraqi Army Captain Jabbar Hasan said Iraqi federal forces had given Peshmerga forces 24 hours to vacate their strongholds in Altunkopru, and withdraw to areas controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Peshmerga forces, however, had rejected the ultimatum, Hasan said.
The referendum on secession of the Kurdistan region was held on September 25 despite strong opposition from the central government in Baghdad, the international community, and Iraq’s neighboring countries, especially Turkey and Iran.
Following the vote, Baghdad imposed a ban on direct international flights to the Kurdish region and called for a halt to its independent crude oil sales.
On October 12, an Iraqi government spokesman said Baghdad had set a series of conditions that the KRG needed to meet before any talks on the resolution of the referendum crisis could start.
“The KRG must first commit to Iraq’s unity. The local authorities in the [Kurdistan] region… must accept the sovereign authority of the federal government on… oil exports, [as well as] security and border protection, including land and air entry points,” the unnamed Iraqi official added.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has already demanded the annulment of the referendum.
During a recent press conference in Paris, Abadi said his government did not seek confrontation with Iraqi Kurds, but reiterated Baghdad’s position that the vote was illegal and that problems should be solved within the framework of Iraq’s constitution.