KURDISTAN has been “let down” by Britain, MPs heard yesterday. Karwan Jamal Tahir, high representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq to the United Kingdom, said the international community had failed his people in the response to the September 25 independence referendum.

Giving evidence before the foreign affairs committee in Westminster, Tahir said: “We have been let down by Britain, by the international community. The referendum was a peaceful path.”

He added: “Self-determination is not a crime for any nation or people.”

The cross-party group is taking evidence about “Kurdish aspirations and the interests of the UK” in the wake of the historic ballot in the north of Iraq, which was given autonomy under Saddam Hussein.

Voters there backed the establishment of the first-ever Kurdish nation state, but the federal government in Baghdad opposed the ballot and closed regional airports after the result. Hubs including that of Kurdistani capital Erbil remain suspended, with aid agencies claiming this is stopping the flow supplies to those displaced by intense fighting in the battle to drive Daesh from the region. The KRG estimates that 1.6 million refugees and internally displaced people remain within its territory.

Anne Clwyd of Labour asked Tahir why the KRG, which is calling on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to mediate between itself and Baghdad, had rejected such an offer of help before the referendum.

Clwyd said a submission from the FCO said Masoud Barzani, former president of Kurdistan, had turned down the proposed intervention.

Tahir said the offer had been made at too late a stage, stating: “We appreciate the effort made by Britain and the Foreign Secretary and the diplomat present in Kurdistan. The offer came very late at the last two days before the referendum.”

Tahir said he had written to Theresa May in October asking her to invite leaders in Baghdad and Erbil to London for talks in a “conducive environment”.

While this did not occur, President Emmanuel Macron of France held a meeting with Kurdish figures at the Elysee Palace at the weekend, where he called on Iraq to dismantle all militias, including those endorsed by the government and backed by Iran.

KRG authorities accuse the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), which are mostly Arab Shi’ite, of abuses against Kurds in mixed regions. This has been denied by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has vowed to punish anyone found guilty of such violations.

Describing the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad, Tahir said: “We are in a relationship crisis with the federal government of Iraq. Trust is at the weakest level. Since October 16 we’ve been calling for negotiation and dialogue and all have been rejected. We need to restore this trust.”

When asked why the Kurdish parliament had not met for a period of two years, Tahir answered that this was down to “political differences” and that it was now functioning.

Bill Park, of King’s College London, told the panel he had put together a team to observe the referendum, and that they reported major splits between activists, areas and ethnic groups.

Recalling the “chaos” surrounding the ballot, he said his team had counted 600 votes in a polling station across from a military base, but that an additional 1000 votes were found in the box. He said: “We were told the Peshmerga [military] had turned up and voted.”

Robert Lowe, deputy director of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said he had not witnessed such “confusion” but found polling stations well organised.