MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Iraq regards Russia's support for Baghdad's position on Iraqi Kurdistan's independence referendum as a "very friendly" stance, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said on Monday.
"There is a problem related to the referendum in Kurdistan. On this issue, the whole international community has expressed support for our [Iraqi] side. This relates also to the League of the Arab States and the UN Security Council. I would like to emphasize that Russia as well as a very friendly stance on this issue in relation to us. Because Russia also respects our Kurdish brothers who are an indispensable part of our nation," Jaafari told reporters prior to the start of the meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.
According to the top diplomat, the referendum was "unconstitutional because Article 1 of the Iraqi Constitution says that Iraq is a sovereign, single and indivisible state.
"The Constitution really provides our Kurdish brothers with an opportunity to create their own region but it does not mean they have a right to secede from Iraq," Jaafari added.
Lavrov, in his turn, has reiterated Russia's respect for Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity, calling on the parties involved to solve all their problems through dialogue between all ethnic and political groups and faiths.
'We have not seen a war so far, hopefully, there will be no war between the Iraqi government troops and the Kurds," Lavrov said.
The tensions between Baghdad and Erbil have escalated after the September 25 independence referendum held in the Kurdistan region as well as disputed areas with over 90 percent of the Kurds supporting secession from Iraq despite strong opposition from Baghdad.
Commenting on the referendum, Moscow has said that Russia would continue interacting with Iraqi Kurdistan, but in coordination with the government in Baghdad.
According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Israel was the only country that supported and recognized the Kurdish referendum in Iraq. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied the allegations, saying that "Israel had no links to the Kurdish referendum except Israel’s years-long deep natural sympathy for the Kurdish people and their aspirations."
On Economic Cooperation With Russia
Jaafari stated that Baghdad would focus on restoring economy after the fight against terrorism is over and expects further development of strategic partnership with Russia.
"They [relations] are already at an excellent level in various areas: politics, economy, security. After turning the page of the fight against terrorism, our task is to give impetus to the economic development," the foreign minister added.
While speaking about broader economic cooperation, Sergei Lavrov said that Russian companies were planning to expand their activities in Iraqi Kurdistan and Iraq in general.
The statement comes days after Russia’s oil giant Rosneft and the government of Iraqi Kurdistan announced the launch of a project on the joint use of an oil pipeline in the Kurdish autonomy.
Apart from energy cooperation, Moscow also provices Baghdad with weapons amid Baghdad's ongoing battle with Daesh terrorists. During the July meeting with the Iraqi vice president, Vladimir Putin said that Russia intends to continue active cooperation with Iraq in the defense industry sector.
Russian Consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan
Lavrov has also refuted media reports claiming that the Iraqi authorities had asked Russia to close its consulate general in the capital of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region.
"As far as our diplomatic mission in Erbil is concerned, today I've seen a story by Euronews; they call themselves the most objective and unbiased TV channel in Europe, or maybe in the world. [The report] said that Russia had rejected Baghdad's demand to close its diplomatic mission in Erbil. I was surprised, and asked [Iraqi Foreign] Minister [Ibrahim Jaafari] during our talks, if it was the case. The minister assured me, that in this case, the objective and unbiased channel Euronews had given in to someone's provocation and broadcast blatant disinformation," Lavrov said at the joint press conference with Jaafari.
"Our consulate general in Erbil is operating, just like the consulates general of many other countries," Lavrov added.