Kurdistan Region seeks strong ties with UK regardless of election outcome

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — About 47 million people in the United Kingdom are registered to vote in Thursday's general elections which pits Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn against the incumbent Conservative Theresa May, and Kurdish officials are tuned in.

"We watch referenda and elections anywhere in the world," Falah Mustafa, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) department of foreign relations, told Rudaw English. "We want to have strong ties with the UK. UK has been a partner of choice with us. They have been engaged since 1991. "

Electors will choose their 650 parliamentarians to send to Westminster.

"We hope that the people of the United Kingdom will make the right decision, because it’s up to them to elect their own representatives," Mustafa explained. Whatever the result, we respect the will of the people of Britain, but at the same time we reiterate our message that we consider ourselves friends, partners, and allies." 

London and Manchester have faced a string of recent extremist attacks, and there are heated debates regarding the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, economic implications, and its future policy towards refugees and immigration.

"After Brexit, this is the first election. The government does need a strong mandate in order to negotiate with the EU," Mustafa said. But, in or out of the EU, we want to have strong ties with the UK government. We want to be partners, we want to have a longterm partnership with them."

Brexit negotiations formally begin with the EU on June 19.

Polls close at 10 p.m. British standard time (1 a.m. in the Kurdistan Region), and results are expected to be announced an hour later.

The UK, as a member of the US-led international coalition, has supported Kurdish Peshmerga through training, air and military support in the fight against ISIS.

The UK has a consulate general in Erbil. It opened its first diplomatic office in the Kurdistan Region in 2007.

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