The United States has reiterated its rejection of the independence referendum held in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, calling for “constructive” talks between Baghdad and Erbil.
“One of the things we would do is call on all sides to engage constructively. We want the – both sides to come together and have some conversations and be able to move things forward, but do it in a constructive fashion,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.
“We know that the turnout was obviously quite high and we certainly would understand why, a lot of enthusiasm, certainly, for that,” she said in her press briefing.
But Nauert stressed that the US government “did not support that referendum.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had spoken with Iraqi Kurd leader Massud Barzani and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi by phone.
“We expressed our deep concern about that (the referendum), and also our disappointment that they decided to go ahead and conduct that vote,” said the State Department spokesperson.
“I think our conversations will be ongoing. We will continue to have conversations both with our friends in Baghdad as well as our friends in the north,” she told reporters.
“The United States government and the coalition’s concern about this and the timing of this referendum was we didn’t want to splinter Iraq. We see the primary issue as taking on ISIS, defeating ISIS, annihilating ISIS,” Nauert added.
Monday's vote took place across the three northern provinces of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan -- Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk -- and in disputed border zones such as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.