Kurds celebrate to show their support for the upcoming September 25th independence referendum in Erbil, Iraq September 22, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat returned on Friday from visits to Washington and Moscow where the fate of the Kurds in Iraq, as well as Syria and Iran, featured prominently on the agenda.
The discussions in both capitals came amid rising tensions in the north as Israel struck Syrian targets three times over the past week.
In Washington, Ben-Shabbat met with his US counterpart, H.R. McMaster, and other senior Trump administration officials. From there, he went to Moscow, leading an Israeli delegation that included IDF and Defense and Foreign Ministry officials who met with their Russian counterparts.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin and a week earlier with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, raising the issue of Kurdish independence in Iraq and stressing that they were a pro-Western people who deserved independence, government officials said.
Netanyahu came out in favor of the Iraqi Kurd push for independence last month, ahead of a referendum there, one of the only world leaders to do so, and has since been lobbying others to prevent the Kurds from losing ground to the Iraqi Army, which retook the oil-rich Kirkuk region last week.
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM on Friday that the current priority is “to prevent an attack on the Kurds, extermination of the Kurds and any harm to them, their autonomy and region, something that Turkey and Iran and internal Shi’ite and other powers in Iraq and part of the Iraqi government want.”
The United Nations has voiced concern over reports that civilians, mainly Kurds, are being driven out of parts of northern Iraq retaken by central government forces and their houses and businesses looted and destroyed.
“The prime minister is certainly engaging the United States, Russia, Germany and France to stop the Kurds from being harmed,” Katz said.Reuters contributed to this report.