* Netanyahu called for supporting a Kurdish state
* Kurds reticent; U.S. wants Iraq to stay united
By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM, June 30 Israeli Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman described Iraqi Kurdish independence as a fait
accompli on Monday but said his country was taking no action to
help the Kurds achieve formal statehood.
The remarks appeared aimed at heading off potential
confrontation with the United States, which wants to keep Iraq
united, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on
Sunday called for support for the emergence of a Kurdish state.
Netanyahu's remarks drew no response from the autonomous
Kurdish government in northern Iraq, which has seized on the
country's sectarian chaos to expand into oil-rich new territory
but remains wary of declaring full independence.
Washington wants Iraq united - a message U.S. Secretary of
State John Kerry relayed last week in a visit to Kurdish leaders
whom he urged political accommodation with Baghdad.
"Iraq's future depends on the people who live there and
Israel has no interest in getting involved in order to advance
this-or-that solution, nor to give advice," Foreign Minister
Lieberman said in Berlin, according to his spokesman.
Lieberman added that "the reality, as it now appears, is
that an independent Kurdish state already exists, de facto".
The Kurds, who today number some 30 million in Iraq, Syria,
Iran and Turkey, have maintained discreet military, intelligence
and business ties with Israel since the 1960s. The Israelis see
in the minority ethnic group a buffer against shared Arab foes.
"We should...support the Kurdish aspiration for
independence," Netanyahu said in his speech to a Tel Aviv
security forum on Sunday, after outlining what he described as
the collapse of Iraq amid spreading strife between Arab Sunni
and Shi'ite Muslims.
The Kurds, Netanyahu added, "are a fighting people that has
proved its political commitment, political moderation, and
deserves political independence".
Asked on Monday if Israel was lobbying abroad for a Kurdish
state, or if Israel had received word from the Kurds that they
were planning to declare independence, an Israeli official close
to Netanyahu told Reuters: "I don't want to go beyond what the
prime minister said."
A spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Israel had no
immediate comment on Netanyahu's remarks.
AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel U.S. lobby, was not helping
to promote prospective Kurdish statehood to the Obama
administration, a Washington source said.
In what signalled a deepening of ties, Israel on June 20
took its first delivery of disputed oil from Iraqi Kurdistan's
new pipeline, which runs through NATO-power Turkey. The United
States disapproves of such go-it-alone Kurdish exports.
Alon Liel, a former Israeli envoy to Turkey, interviewed on
Israel Radio, said the statements about Kurdish independence by
leading politicians risked harming the Kurds' interests by
"drawing Arab fire".
(Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Ralph Boulton)