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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Russia's Lavrov calls for Iraq-Kurd dialogue

He said the issue should be addressed 'with consideration of the need to avoid creating another source of instability in the region'

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (R) shakes hands with his Iraqi counterpart, Ibrahim Al Jaafari, at the end of a joint press conference following their meeting in Moscow on October 23, 2017. Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (R) shakes hands with his Iraqi counterpart, Ibrahim Al Jaafari, at the end of a joint press conference following their meeting in Moscow on October 23, 2017. Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP

The Russian foreign minister called for dialogue between Iraqi Kurdistan and the country’s central government, saying that tensions following last month’s Kurdish vote on independence should not become “another source of instability”.

"We understand the hopes of Kurdish people to strive and strengthen their identity … but it would be right to realise these hopes through dialogue with the Iraqi government," Sergey Lavrov said on Monday after talks with his Iraqi counterpart, Ibrahim Al Jaafari.

He said the issue should be addressed "with consideration of the need to avoid creating another source of instability in the region”.

Iraqi Kurds on September 25 voted overwhelmingly for independence in a poll set in motion by longtime regional leader Massud Barzani and strongly opposed by Baghdad.

Central government forces last week swept into the oil-rich Kirkuk province, restoring it and Kurdish-held parts of Nineveh and Diyala provinces to Baghdad's control.

"We don't see war yet, and we hope that it won't happen between the Kurds and government troops of Iraq," Mr Lavrov added.

He said Baghdad does not "reject" Kurds, ban their language or destroy their monuments, so "all components" are in place for them to figure out how to "live together in a unified Iraq".

"The sides should decide if they will engage in direct dialogue or if they need some sort of intermediaries," he added.

Meanwhile, head of the electoral commission Hendrean Mohammed confirmed that the elections for Iraq’s Kurdistan region’s presidency and parliament — set for November 1 — will be delayed because political parties failed to present candidates.

Parties have been unable to focus on the elections because of turmoil that followed a referendum on September 25, a Kurdish MP told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The Kurdish electoral commission's Mohammed, speaking by phone from the Erbil, in northern Iraq, told Reuters it is up to the Kurdistan region's parliament to fix a new date for the elections. The deadline to present candidates expired last week and was extended until Monday.

The current presidency, held by Mr Barzani since 2005, and parliament, elected in 2013, are expected to continue until new votes are held, he said.

The loss of Kirkuk prompted calls from Gorran, the main opposition party to Barzani, for his resignation.

Gorran, or the Change Movement, supports the right of Iraq's Kurds for self-determination but it opposed holding the referendum, saying the timing was ill-chosen.