TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday said the Iraqi army would not be used against the Kurdish people.

“We won’t use the army against the people and we won’t wage a war against the Kurds,” al-Abadi said in televised comments broadcast on Iraqi state television.

He went on to stress that the Iraqi armed forces were devoted exclusively to providing public security in Iraq and protecting the country from foreign threats.

“It is our responsibility to safeguard Iraq’s unity,” al-Abadi said.

Tension has steadily mounted between Baghdad and northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) since Sept. 25, when Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas — and in a handful of disputed areas — voted on whether or not to declare independence.

In the immediate aftermath of last month’s vote, which was held despite opposition from the international community and neighbors, including Iran and Turkey, Baghdad banned international flights from entering KRG-controlled areas and closed all foreign diplomatic missions based in the Kurdish region.