Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. File photo: Alexey Druzhinin/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the Kurdistan Region, Syria, Iran, and Iraq in a phone call on Wednesday.
"There was a thorough discussion of ways to resolve the Syrian crisis, the situation surrounding Iran’s nuclear program and the results of the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan," a statement from the Kremlin reads, adding that the call was made by Israel.
There was no immediate readout of the conversation from Netanyahu's office.
A day earlier, Netanyahu had discussed Iranian influence in Syria in a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Iran, like Russia, is backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Netanyahu warned that he would not stand for an Iranian military presence on Israel’s border.
"Iran needs to understand that Israel will not allow this," Netanyahu said, according to a press release from Israel’s foreign ministry.
Putin hosted Netanyahu at his Sochi retreat on August 23, when the pair discussed Iran's increasing influence in the Middle East.
The Kurdistan Region held a referendum on September 25, in which 92.7 percent of people voted for independence. Since then, Baghdad has taken a number of punitive measures against Kurdistan, measures that have been backed by Iran who says they support Iraqi unity.
Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary units over the past three days have entered diverse, disputed, and oil-rich areas in the north of the country. They have replaced Kirkuk's governor, a Kurd, with an Arab and now control the city's oil facilities, airport, and military base. They are also in control of disputed areas of Nineveh province, including Shingal.
The areas had participated in the referendum.
Baghdad has also taken punitive measures against the Kurdistan Region including closing both its airports to international flights.
Rudaw withdrew all staff members and reporters from Kirkuk following death threats from militiamen on Wednesday.
The United Nations Security Council is yet to issue a statement on the interventions by Baghdad.
Rudaw's Majeed Gly queried the current president of the council if a statement will be released about the events in Kirkuk by Wednesday.
"I hope so, because I think it's past time," said France's permanent UN representative, Ambassador Francois Delattre.
Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, has previously stated it was waiting to see if the referendum would be recognized, but it supported the "territorial integrity of regional states."
Israel bucked the international trend and expressed support for the referendum. Israel “supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own,” Netanyahu stated a couple of weeks before the vote.
Israel has denied allegations that its intelligence services played a role in the referendum.
The Kurdistan Region has no diplomatic relations with Israel, in accordance with Iraqi law. The two nations share historical relations.
Russia does have a consulate in Erbil and Consul General Viktor Simakov told Rudaw this week they had no plans to withdraw, despite requests from Baghdad for all foreign representatives to close their missions in the Kurdistan Region.