Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Moscow respects the aspiration of Iraqi Kurds to seek to assert their identity, but added that this must be done in “dialogue” with the federal government in Baghdad.
Lavrov made the comments on October 23 amid tension between Baghdad and Iraq’s Kurdistan region over the independence referendum held in the autonomous region last month.
"We understand the aspiration of the Kurdish people for strengthening their identity and self-awareness," Lavrov said following talks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in Moscow.
However, the Russian minister insisted that a "dialogue" with the Iraqi government would be “the only correct way to realize those aspirations, with due account of the Kurdish issue's significance for the region and the need to avoid the emergence of additional sources of regional instability."
Lavrov also said that Russia will continue its economic ties with the Kurdish region, as it does with other constituent parts of Iraq.
On October 20, Russia's state-owned Rosneft oil company said that it agreed with the government of Iraq's Kurdistan to take a controlling stake in the region's main oil export pipeline.
Lavrov also said that Russia is not closing its consulate in Irbil, the main city in Iraqi Kurdistan, but said the mission was subordinate to the Russian Embassy in Baghdad.
Lavrov added that that there is “a good basis for further development” of cooperation between Moscow and Baghdad, particularly in the energy and defense spheres.
Jaafari said that he expects relations with “our friends and strategic partners in Russia” to strengthen, according to Russian news agencies.
People living in areas under Kurdish control in norther Iraq overwhelmingly backed secession in the September 25 referendum that the Baghdad government rejected as illegal.
Following the vote, Iraqi government troops and allied Shi’ite militia fighters moved into disputed areas in northern Iraq that previously were held by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.