Israel endorses independent Kurdish state

Israel supports the establishment of a Kurdish state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, as Kurds in Iraq gear up for a referendum on independence that lawmakers in Baghdad oppose.

Israel has maintained discreet military, intelligence and business ties with the Kurds since the 1960s, viewing the minority ethnic group -- whose indigenous population is split between Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran -- as a buffer against shared Arab adversaries.

On Tuesday, Iraq’s Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said he would press ahead with the Sept. 25 referendum despite a vote by Iraq’s parliament rejecting it.

Western powers are concerned a plebiscite in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region - including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk - could divert attention from the war against Islamic State militants.

Iraq’s neighbors -- Turkey, Iran and Syria -- oppose the referendum, fearing it could fan separatism among their own ethnic Kurdish populations.

Kurds have sought an independent state since at least the end of World War One, when colonial powers divided up the Middle East after the collapse of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire. reuters.com