Macron: Will Mediate Iraq Gov't, Kurds

Macron: Will Mediate Iraq Gov't, Kurds

PARIS (AP) -- French President Emmanuel Macron offered Thursday for France to mediate between the Iraqi government and Kurds seeking independence after a controversial referendum.

Macron made the offer after meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Paris in wide-ranging talks about French support for the fight against the Islamic State group and rebuilding Iraqi's economy.

Macron said France and others are worried about the situation of the Kurds after last month's referendum, and said France supports the stability and territorial integrity of Iraq. He insisted on the importance of "national reconciliation and inclusive governance" that includes Kurds, "with whom France maintains close ties."

Macron said dialogue "is the only path" and "France is ready . to contribute actively to mediation."

Tensions have escalated between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdish region. The Shiite-dominated legislature rejected the Sept. 25 referendum in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region and areas the Kurds captured battling the Islamic State group since 2014. The Kurds voted by more than 90 percent in support of independence.

Parliament has asked for harsh measures in response to the vote, including sending federal troops to retake the contested oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which is held by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad. Lawmakers also dismissed the ethnically mixed Kirkuk province's Kurdish governor who supported the referendum.

"I'm launching an appeal to everyone, we don't want armed confrontation, federal authority must prevail," al-Abadi said.