UK urged to forge Kurdish ties
The Foreign Office is being urged by MPs to strengthen diplomatic ties with Iraq's Kurds amid fears the country could be close to breaking up.
The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said the Kurdistan region in Iraq was a "beacon of tolerance and moderation" in a part of the world beset by extremism and instability.
But while the regional government in the Kurdish capital, Irbil, was anxious to develop links with the UK, the committee warned that the current level of diplomatic resources committed to the region was "not adequate"
It said that it was "not acceptable" that the British consulate general was run out of a business hotel on the outskirts of Irbil with fewer than five UK-based staff.
With concerns that Iraq could face partition if its three main communities - the Shia, the Sunnis and the Kurds - are unable to settle their difference, the committee said that it was more important than ever to bolster ties with the Kurds.
"Indeed, with (Islamic State) terrorists occupying the west and centre of the country, it may be more accurate to say that Iraq is already broken, and that the question now is whether it can yet be stitched back into a functioning whole. The clock is ticking," it said.
"The UK is fortunate to have in such a volatile part of the world a partner as relatively moderate, pragmatic, stable, democratic, secular and reflexively pro-Western as the Kurdistan regional government.
"We urge the UK Government to be mindful that if it is unable fully to reciprocate the Kurdistan regional government's offer of closer partnership, the KRG might be reluctantly compelled to look elsewhere for support including to regimes whose values and interests do not always match those of the UK."