Kurds seek talks over air­port and banks ban

Iraqi gov­ern­ment wants Kurds to can­cel ref­er­en­dum re­sults

Jerusalem Post - - REGIONAL NEWS - • By MAHER CHMAYTELLI

BAGH­DAD (Reuters) – The Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment has of­fered talks with Iraqi author­i­ties on the sta­tus of Kur­dish air­ports, bor­der posts and banks af­ter Bagh­dad placed re­stric­tions fol­low­ing an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

Iraq’s cen­tral gov­ern­ment im­posed a ban on di­rect in­ter­na­tional flights to the north­ern au­tonomous re­gion as part of mea­sures to iso­late the KRG af­ter last month’s ref­er­en­dum, which Bagh­dad says was il­le­gal.

It also de­manded that the KRG hand over con­trol of its bor­der posts and halt in­de­pen­dent crude oil ex­ports. Bagh­dad also stopped sell­ing dol­lars to four Kur­dish-owned banks.

“To avoid this col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment, we in­vite [Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter] Haider al-Abadi, again,... [to] any form of di­a­logue and ne­go­ti­a­tions in con­form­ity with the Iraqi Con­sti­tu­tion,” the KRG said a state­ment pub­lished overnight.

It of­fered dis­cus­sions “re­gard­ing the cross­ings, in­ter­nal trade, pro­vid­ing ser­vices to the cit­i­zens, the banks and the air­ports.”

Iraqi Kurds over­whelm­ingly voted for in­de­pen­dence in the Septem­ber 25 ref­er­en­dum. Bagh­dad de­mands that the KRG can­cel the re­sult of the vote be­fore ne­go­ti­a­tions to re­solve the cri­sis.

Com­ment­ing on Thurs­day on the KRG of­fer, an Iraqi gov­ern­ment spokesman out­lined a se­ries of pre­con­di­tions for any di­a­logue, start­ing with a Kur­dish “com­mit­ment to Iraq’s unity.”

The KRG “must ac­cept the sov­er­eign author­ity of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment on... oil ex­ports, se­cu­rity and bor­der pro­tec­tion, in­clud­ing land and air en­try points,” he told Reuters.

Kur­dish author­i­ties on Wed­nes­day ac­cused Iraqi forces and Ira­nian-trained Iraqi paramil­i­taries of “pre­par­ing a ma­jor at­tack” on the oil-rich re­gion of Kirkuk and near Mo­sul in north­ern Iraq.

Abadi said on Thurs­day he would not use the army against the Kur­dish re­gion, and a mil­i­tary spokesman de­nied any at­tack on Kur­dish forces was planned, say­ing gov­ern­ment troops were pre­par­ing to oust Is­lamic State ter­ror­ists from an area near the Syr­ian bor­der.

“We won’t use our army against our peo­ple or to launch a war against our Kur­dish cit­i­zens,” Abadi said in a state­ment.

Iraq’s Supreme Ju­di­cial Coun­cil is­sued ar­rest war­rants on Wed­nes­day for the chair­man of the Kur­dish ref­er­en­dum com­mis­sion and two aides, for “vi­o­lat­ing a valid [Iraqi] court rul­ing” ban­ning the in­de­pen­dence vote as against the con­sti­tu­tion.

Neigh­bor­ing Iran and Turkey sup­port Iraq’s un­com­pro­mis­ing stance, fear­ing the spread of sep­a­ratism to their own Kur­dish pop­u­la­tions.

Turkey will grad­u­ally close bor­der gates with north­ern Iraq in co­or­di­na­tion with the cen­tral Iraqi gov­ern­ment and Iran, Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan’s spokesman said on Thurs­day.

Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim is ex­pected to visit Bagh­dad on Sun­day to meet with Iraqi coun­ter­part Abadi.

Iraq’s Kur­dis­tan re­gion is land­locked and all of its oil ex­ports tran­sit through Turk­ish ter­ri­tory.

Kirkuk, a Kur­dish-held, multi-eth­nic re­gion, has emerged as a flash­point in the cri­sis be­tween Bagh­dad and Er­bil as it is claimed by both sides.

Iraqi forces and Shi’ite paramil­i­taries, known as Pop­u­lar Mo­bi­liza­tion, are de­ployed south and west of Kirkuk, in ar­eas pre­vi­ously un­der the con­trol of Is­lamic State.

The area around the bor­der post of al-Qaim, in west­ern Iraq, is the last Iraqi re­gion still un­der the con­trol of the Sunni ter­ror­ists, who over­ran a third of the coun­try in 2014.

On Thurs­day, the Iraqi mil­i­tary dropped leaflets on al-Qaim urg­ing the ji­hadists to sur­ren­der or face death.

ISIS also holds ar­eas on the Syr­ian side of the bor­der, but is re­treat­ing there in the face of two sets of hos­tile forces – a US-backed, Kur­dish-led coali­tion, and Syr­ian gov­ern­ment troops with for­eign Shi’ite mili­tias backed by Iran and Rus­sia.

Is­lamic State’s cross-bor­der “caliphate” ef­fec­tively col­lapsed in July when US-backed Iraqi forces cap­tured Mo­sul, the group’s de facto cap­i­tal in Iraq, af­ter a nine-month bat­tle.

(Reuters)

KUR­DISH PRES­I­DENT Ma­soud Barzani puts a wreath in front of the cof­fin of former Iraqi pres­i­dent Jalal Tal­a­bani at Su­laimaniya Air­port last week.

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