Iraq's Abadi accepts Macron invitation to come to discuss Kurds: Elysee source

FILE PHOTO:Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi delivers remarks at the morning ministerial plenary for the Global Coalition working to Defeat ISIS at the State Department in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

TALLINN (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi accepted an invitation from French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday to come to Paris on Oct. 5 for talks on the Kurdish independence referendum, a source in Macron’s office said.

Macron had offered to help ease tensions between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government over Monday’s referendum, which produced an overwhelming vote in favor of secession from Iraq, and had warned that any further escalation should be avoided. Baghdad has closed Kurdish airspace and vowed to take control of the autonomous region’s external borders.

In a statement after a telephone call with Abadi, Macron’s office said he had invited Abadi to Paris, but warned that the two sides should remain united in their priority to defeat Islamic State and stabilize Iraq.

“All escalation should be avoided,” Macron said in the statement.

“The president ... recalled the importance of preserving unity and Iraq’s (territorial) integrity while recognizing the rights of the Kurdish people,” the statement said. “With the priority to fight Islamic State and the stabilization of Iraq, Iraqis must remain united.”

Reporting by Marine Pennetier; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Kevin Liffey