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Eyeing Kurdish referendum, Netanyahu toes the line

Saber Salim sits in the center of Irbil adorned with Kurdish flags ahead of the upcoming referendum on independence from Iraq, in Irbil, Iraq.
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Tehran, Baghdad and Ankara are staunchly opposed to Kurdish autonomy in their regions

As Iraq makes strides into a new post-ISIS era, its Kurdish minority is seeking its long desired autonomy.

An upcoming referendum on the independence on September 25 is crystallizing positions of regional and global players.

Tehran, Baghdad and Ankara remain staunchly opposed to Kurdish autonomy in their regions.

US president Barack Obama’s administration also advocated for Iraqi unity. The incumbent US administration has seemed more open to the idea, but ultimately appears undecided.

Meanwhile, Israel undoubtedly views Kurdish independence favorably, but with a measure of restraint.

But one official stated his support in no uncertain terms.

“The PKK is not a terror organization," former deputy chief of staff of the Israeli army Maj. Gen. Yair Golan said recently. "Looking at Iran in the east, looking at the instability in the region, a solid stable cohesive entity – [a] Kurdish entity in the midst of this quagmire, it's not a bad idea."

The PKK is a Kurdish organization that has been fighting for independence from Turkey since 1984. It’s listed as a terror organization not just by Turkey, but also the European Union and the United States.

In a clarifying statement on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toed the line, saying: “Israel opposes the PKK and considers it a terrorist organization . . . While Israel is opposed to any kind of terrorism, it supports the legitimate means of the Kurdish people to obtain their own state."

In a region where few countries are willing to forge ties with Israel, an independent Kurdistan is seen by some as likely to consider an alliance.

"Now the Iraqi state is a religious entity that has no place for the Kurds," Sami Abdulkader Rekani, a Kurdish political analyst, said. "Israel is the only entity that openly supports a Kurdish state. Israel has a vested interest in a Kurdish state that will protect both people’s mutual interests in building up the Middle East."

While sympathy is widely shared between Israel and Iraqi Kurds, the same cannot be said for Kurds elsewhere.

Israel has historically had relatively robust ties with Turkey, something that has strained relations with Turkish Kurds.

Now, all eyes are on the referendum planned for the end of the month, which will dictate much of how relations between all sides progress.

i24NEWS Middle East correspondent Michael Plutchok contributed to this report.

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