PARIS, France – European nations are hesitant to express support for Kurdistan’s referendum in light of a similar secessionist movement much closer to home, in Catalonia, said former French senator Yves Pozzo di Borgo and deputy of the centre-right Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI) party.
He believes, however, that French President Emmanuel Macron can help Kurdistan and Iraq in the post-referendum phase, as a good mediator, particularly considering France’s influence as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
Macron met with Iraqi President Haider al-Abadi in Paris last week and offered his assistance to mediate between Erbil and Baghdad to break the standoff between the two governments following Kurdistan’s independence referendum.
At a joint press conference following his meeting with Abadi, Macron expressed his support for Iraq’s stability and territorial integrity. He said, however, that France and others are concerned about the situation in Kurdistan after the referendum, and stressed that dialogue is “the only path” going forward.
“France is ready… to contribute actively to mediation,” he said.
France has historically close relations with Kurdistan and maintains “close ties” with Kurds, Macron said.
The people of Kurdistan voted with an overwhelming majority to seek independence from Iraq in a referendum on September 25.
Baghdad has rejected the result and demanded Kurdistan nullify the vote as a pre-condition for talks, something the Kurdish leadership has refused to do. The central Iraqi government has imposed and threatened a number of punitive measures against the Kurdistan Region in the wake of the vote, including closing airports to international flights, taking steps to exert control over Kurdistan’s oil revenues, and ordering the deployment of troops to disputed areas.
Speaking in Paris, Abadi said he does not want conflict with Kurds. “We don’t want armed confrontation,” he said, qualifying that “federal authority must prevail.”