Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani [L] and British counterpart Theresa May held a phone call on December 12, 2017, less than two weeks after Barzani visited France at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron. Photos: AFP/Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — British Prime Minister Theresa May has invited KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani for a meeting in the United Kingdom "in due course," while promising “to fight” to protect Kurdish identity and rights in Iraq.
"The Prime Minister said that she would be pleased to see Prime Minister Barzani in London in due course to make further progress on these matters," stated a readout of the call from 10 Downing Street on Tuesday.
May underlined the "UK’s continued support for the Kurdistan Region and Kurdish people within a unified Iraq.”
Regarding the stalemate between Erbil and Baghdad, May said she and Barzani "agreed on the importance of dialogue and negotiating" on the Iraqi government's desire to take federal control and joint management of borders and "a resumption of international flights to Kurdistan’s airports in Erbil and Sulaimani."
May also "welcomed" the KRG's recognition of the Iraqi Federal Court's ruling
that Iraq is unified and indivisible adding "the UK’s continued respect for the territorial integrity and unity of Iraq."
"[T]he UK would continue to fight to protect the identity and rights of the Kurdish people under the Iraqi constitution," she added.
The UK opposed Kurdistan's independence referendum and the British parliament has discussed the situation of the Kurdistan Region in the wake of the vote and subsequent damaged relations between Erbil and Baghdad.
May and Barzani also spoke about counter-terrorism and "the importance of our continued cooperation in order to keep the people of both Kurdistan and the UK safe."
In late November, May, who was the first major leader to visit Iraq since Mosul was liberated from ISIS, met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad
A statement from May's office read "we encourage the Iraqi government to respond positively to the new Kurdish leadership."
"We call on both sides to now move quickly to negotiations of outstanding differences on the basis of the constitution," stated May.
May did not come to the Kurdistan Region. Abadi reportedly had blocked a visit by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to the Kurdistan Region in early November.
The United Kingdom is a member of the US-led international anti-ISIS coalition and has forces stationed in the Kurdistan Region.
The British PM announced after her November visit: "the UK is committed not only to defeating Daesh militarily but also to countering the dispersal of foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria," using another term for ISIS.
"[T]he UK will continue to support Iraqi defence and security," she stated.
Tensions between Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga security forces have remained high since October 16 after the Iraqi military supported by Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitias took control of Kirkuk and other disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad.
Kurdish and Iraqi security officials have held a series of meetings to find a negotiated settlement with regard to the deployment of Iraqi forces to the disputed areas.
PM Barzani met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on December 2. Macron urged both Erbil and Baghdad to build on the success of their security meetings and begin political dialogue with the aim of achieving “lasting peace” in Iraq.
Macron said he planned to convey two messages to Abadi: that the KRG leadership is ready to cooperate with Baghdad regarding the international border crossings, and that an “inclusive” Iraqi government must be formed that will be reflective of its components.
The President of France has previously offered to mediate talks between Erbil and Baghdad.
Last updated at 4 p.m.