JERUSALEM, NETRALNEWS.COM - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the establishment of a Kurdish state as Kurds in Iraq are pushing for a referendum on independence opposed by lawmakers in Baghdad.
Israel has maintained a cautious, military and intelligence business relationship with the Kurds since the 1960s, seein the minority ethnic as a buffer against its Arab enemies. The Kurdish population is spread across Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran.
Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said Tuesday (9/12/2017), he would push for a referendum on September 25 despite a vote in the Iraqi parliament rejecting it.
"(Israel) supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to reach their own country," Netanyahu said in a statement sent Wednesday (9/13/2017) to foreign correspondents by his office.
The Western powers make anxious the referendum in semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq - including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk - could divert attention from the war against ISIS militants.
However, Netanyahu said Israel views the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) based in Turkey as a terrorist group, the same position as Turkey, US and the European Union.
An Israeli general spoke at a conference in Washington last week said that he personally does not consider the PKK, whose militant members have fought against Turkey for over three decades, as a terrorist group.
Netanyahu, scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on September 19, voiced support for Kurdish aspirations in a speech in 2014, claiming they deserve "political independence".
His latest remarks seem to be a more direct endorsement for the establishment of a Kurdish state.
But it will cause problems in Baghdad which has no diplomatic ties with Israel and has strong ties with Iran, an enemy of Iarel.
Iraq's neighbors - Turkey, Iran and Syria - are opposed to the referendum, which is afraid to inflame the idea of secession between ethnic Kurdish populations in each of these countries.
The Kurds sought an independent state since the end of World War I, when colonial powers split the Middle East after the collapse of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire.