The Trump administration acknowledged its regret Iraqi Kurds voted for independence from Iraq Monday, noting the referendum does not change the relationship the U.S. has with its allies in Iraq.
"The United States is deeply disappointed that the Kurdistan Regional Government decided to conduct today a unilateral referendum on independence, including in areas outside of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region," Heather Nauert, State Department Spokesperson, said in a statement.
"The United States' historic relationship with the people of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region will not change in light of today's non-binding referendum, but we believe this step will increase instability and hardships for the Kurdistan region and its people."
"The unilateral referendum will greatly complicate the Kurdistan Regional Government's relationship with both the government of Iraq and neighboring states," she added. "The fight against ISIS is not over, and extremist groups are seeking to exploit instability and discord. We believe all sides should engage constructively in a dialogue to improve the future of all Iraqis. The United States opposes violence and unilateral moves by any party to alter boundaries."
The Trump administration previously urged the Kurdish leaders to not hold a referendum regarding their independence from Iraq, warning that it would distract from defeating the Islamic State."The United States does not support the Kurdistan Regional Government's intention to hold a referendum later this month," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. "The United States has repeatedly emphasized to the leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government that the referendum is distracting from efforts to defeat ISIS and stabilize the liberated areas."
The referendum is significant as the U.S. has maintained a friendly relationship with the Kurds as allies fighting terrorism in Iraq and Syria. The Kurds have provided ground troops that have contributed to successes in overthrowing the Islamic State.