President Donald Trump announces America’s neutrality as tensions continue to mount between Baghdad and Erbil.
He told reporters at the White House that the U.S. has had a very good relationship with the Kurds but has also been on Iraq’s side for many years.
“We've had for many years a very good relationship with the Kurds as you know, and we've also been on the side of Iraq, even though we should have never been there in the first place. We should never have been there. But we're not taking sides in that battle," Trump said.
The same day, the U.S. State Department urged both Baghdad and Kurdish regional leaders to coordinate military activities and restore calm.
"We strongly urge all parties to avoid provocations that can be exploited by Iraq’s enemies who are interested in fueling ethnic and sectarian conflict," it said in a statement.
"In particular, we note that there is still much work to be done to defeat ISIS in Iraq, and continued tensions between Iraqi and Kurdish forces distract from this vital mission," it added, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or Daesh.
It said the U.S. is working with central and regional government officials to reduce tensions, avoid further clashes and encourage dialogue.
"The United States will continue to stand with our Iraqi partners to ensure ISIS’s defeat," it added.
Tension has steadily mounted between Baghdad and the KRG since Sept. 25, when Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas -- and in several disputed areas, including Kirkuk -- voted on whether to declare regional independence.
The illegitimate referendum had faced strong opposition from most regional and international actors, including the U.S., Turkey and Iran, who warned that the poll would distract from Iraq’s fight against terrorism and further destabilize the region.