Kurds of­fer talks with Baghdad on air­port and banks ban

Oman Daily Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

BAGHDAD: The Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment (KRG) 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 pre-con­di­tions for any dia­logue, start­ing with a Kur­dish “com­mit­ment to Iraq’s unity”. The KRG “must ac­cept the sov­er­eign au­thor­ity the fed­eral gov­ern­ment on (..) oil exports, of se­cu­rity and bor­der pro­tec­tion, in­clud­ing land and air en­try points,” he said.

Kur­dish au­thor­i­ties on Wed­nes­day ac­cused Iraqi forces and 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 IS fight­ers 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.

Neigh­bour­ing 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 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 paramil­i­taries, known as Pop­u­lar Mo­bil­i­sa­tion, are de­ployed south and west of Kirkuk, in ar­eas pre­vi­ously un­der the con­trol of IS.

The area around the bor­der post of Al Qaim, in west­ern Iraq, is the last Iraqi re­gion still un­der the con­trol of the fight­ers, who over­ran a third of the coun­try in 2014. On Thurs­day, the Iraqi mil­i­tary dropped leaflets on Al Qaim urg­ing the fight­ers to sur­ren­der or face death.

IS 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, Kur­dish­led coali­tion and Syr­ian gov­ern­ment troops with for­eign mili­tias backed by Iran and Rus­sia.

IS’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.

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