MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia respects the desire of Iraqi Kurdistan to assert its identity but this must be done in dialogue with the Iraqi government, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday at talks with his Iraqi government counterpart.
Relations between Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government in Baghdad have been in crisis since the region held an independence referendum last month. The Iraqi military took back the oil-rich Kirkuk area from Kurdish forces last week.
“We understand the hopes of the Kurdish people as it concerns their striving to strengthen their identity, their self-awareness,” Lavrov said at a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
“However, we believe it is correct to realise those desires, those hopes exclusively via the Iraqi government and taking fully into account the significance the Kurdish question has on a regional scale, and taking into account the need to avoid additional sources of instability in the region.”
Lavrov was meeting Jaafari days after Russian state oil major Rosneft agreed to take control of Iraqi Kurdistan’s main oil pipeline. Iraqi oil minister Jabar al-Luaibi said on Saturday he had sought clarification from Rosneft.
Lavrov said Russia would continue its economic ties with Iraqi Kurdistan, as it does with other constituent parts of Iraq. He said Russia was not closing its consulate in Erbil, the main city in Iraqi Kurdistan, but said the mission was subordinate to the Russian embassy in Baghdad.
Reporting by Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber; Writing by Christioan Lowe, Editing by Andrew Osborn and Angus MacSwan