Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga start new round of talks
Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters on Sunday started a second round of talks to resolve a conflict over control of the Kurdistan region’s border crossings, Iraqi state TV said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-abadi on Friday ordered a 24-hour suspension of military operations against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.
The two sides held a first round of talks on Friday and Saturday, Reuters wrote.
Abadi said the talks are meant to prepare for the peaceful deployment of Iraqi troops at the border crossings with Turkey, Iran and Syria in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.
Clashes broke out between the two sides after Iraqi forces captured the oil-rich city of Kirkuk from the Peshmerga, in a surprise offensive ordered by Abadi after the Kurds held a secession referendum in northern Iraq on September 25.
Kirkuk is part of so-called disputed areas, claimed by both the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.
“The second round of talks about deploying federal troops in the disputed areas has started,” state TV said, giving no further details.
Abadi wants to take control of the disputed areas and the border crossings, including one in the Fish-khabur area through which an oil export pipeline crosses into Turkey, carrying Iraqi and Kurdish crude oil.
The KRG on Wednesday proposed an immediate cease-fire, a suspension of the referendum result and “starting an open dialogue with the federal government based on the Iraqi Constitution” — a call rejected by Baghdad.
The multiethnic city of Kirkuk, which lies outside the KRG’S official boundaries, was taken by Iraqi forces without much resistance on October 16. But the Peshmerga began to fight back as they withdrew closer to the core of the Kurdish region.
Barzani to step down
KRG leader Masoud Barzani told a closed-door session of parliament Sunday he was stepping down amid the fallout from the secession vote.
“After November 1, I will no longer exercise my functions, and I reject any extension of my mandate,” the 71-year-old said in a letter read out to parliament in the Kurdish capital Erbil, according to AFP.
Sunday’s parliamentary session was held behind closed doors because of “sensitive questions” that would be discussed, deputies said earlier.