Britain’s foreign secretary said Monday in Baghdad he hoped Scotland’s decision to remain in the United Kingdom would inspire Iraqis to remain united.
“I hope that the experience of Scotland will be a useful model for Iraq,” Philip Hammond said, replying to a question at a joint press conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
Scotland voted to reject independence last month after a close referendum campaign in which it had looked like the “Yes” camp could snatch a surprise victory.
Many Iraqis in the northern autonomous region of Kurdistan — whose president has vowed to hold a referendum on self-determination — followed the campaign keenly.
“The Scottish people looked long and hard at the question of separation and they decided they were better off in the United Kingdom, stronger and safer in the United Kingdom,” Hammond said.
With Iraq on the brink of collapse since the Islamic State jihadist group launched a devastating offensive in June, the idea of a breakup has gained traction, especially in overwhelmingly separatist Kurdistan.
The foreign secretary also met Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and several other senior officials during his one-day trip.
Amid growing concern that Iraqi forces are unable to turn the tide on jihadist expansion despite foreign air strikes, Hammond reiterated Britain’s support but ruled out a ground intervention.
“To beat ISIL (IS), it is the Iraqi people, the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi government that will have to take the lead on the ground,” he said.