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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

UK foreign minister encourages Iraq, Kurdistan talks following Barzani resignation

Boris Johnson said it is imperative both sides work together to drive ISIL from Iraq

UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson said on Monday that it is imperative a peaceful resolution for the escalating tensions between the governments of Iraq and Kurdistan is found, in order to drive ISIL from the region.

Mr Johnson spoke with both Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the leader of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Masoud Barzani on Sunday, the same day Mr Barzani announced his resignation from his current role.

Mr Barzani will be leaving his position as president on November 1 in the wake of the fallout from last month’s independence referendum, which led to military and economic intervention from Baghdad.

In a statement, Mr Johnson said the UK remained committed to the unity of Iraq.

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“The UK welcomes the willingness of the Government of Iraq and Kurdistan Regional Government to engage in dialogue on the basis of the Iraqi Constitution. The UK encourages both sides to agree a timetable for talks,” he said.

“The UK remains committed to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Iraq and will continue to support all Iraq’s people, including Iraq’s Kurds, within a unified Iraq.

“It is also critical that all parties continue to focus on the fight against Daesh [ISIL], prevent its re-emergence and work together to rebuild liberated towns, villages and lives.

Both the Iraqi army and Kurdish fighters have been crucial in the fight to drive extremists out of the country, since the ISIL insurgency began in 2014.

Mr Johnson paid tribute to Mr Barzani, noting the role he played in ISIL’s increasing number of defeats, while welcoming the opportunity his resignation would bring for the next generation.

“We welcome the opportunity this presents for leadership of the Kurdistan Region to pass to a new generation of Kurds. They must build strong democratic institutions and resolve the historic differences between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Government of Iraq consistent with the Iraqi Constitution. They will have the UK’s full support,” he said.

“The Government of Iraq and Kurdistan Regional Government have been staunch allies of the UK in recent years as we have jointly fought the scourge of Daesh in the region. I want to pay tribute to former President Barzani's leadership in that fight, to his years of service to the Iraqi Kurdish people and to the role he played in the formation of modern Iraq.”

Mr Johnson’s statement comes after reports from Iraqi Kurdish political parties opposed to Mr Barzani that attacks had taken place on their offices in several cities.

Three parties: The Movement for Change, Gorran, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Puk) have separately reported that their offices had been looted or burnt overnight hours after Mr Barzani’s resignation.

Local police forces have been ordered to stop the attacks, according to Mr Barzani’s Kurdistan Regional Government.