Netanyahu backs independent Kurdish state

Official statement supports 'legitimate efforts' despite Iraqi government objections


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly voiced support for an independent Kurdish state, ahead of a referendum by Iraqi Kurds on the issue.

In a statement sent from his office, Mr Netanyahu confirmed that Israel still considered the Kurdistan Workers Party (the PKK) to be a terrorist organisation, in line with the policy of US and Turkey. However, the statement also affirmed that Israel “supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state".

Although this is not the first time Mr Netanyahu has backed the creation of an independent country for the Kurds, the intervention comes at a particularly sensitive time. The referendum, which seems likely to take place at the end of September, will go ahead despite the objections of the Iraqi parliament, which voted against it.

However, Mr Netanyahu’s comments may also have been an indirect response to remarks made by a prominent Israeli general.

Major General Yair Golan, the former deputy chief of the Israeli Defence Forces, gave a speech in Washington last week in which he expressed support for Kurdish independence, but also stated that “from my personal point of view the PKK is not a terrorist organisation”.

The PKK has orchestrated many attacks in Turkey over the years, targeting both soldiers and Turkish civilians. Israel and Turkey re-established ties in June 2016, after a six-year rift in the relationship between the countries.

In further comments by Mr Netanyahu during his trip this week to Argentina, the Prime Minister confirmed that “Israel opposes the PKK and considers it a terrorist organisation”, but noted that this was “in contrast to Turkey, which supports the terrorist group Hamas”.

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