KRG of­fers talks with Baghdad over air­ports, bor­ders, banks

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

ISO­LATED after hold­ing an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment (KRG) is now seek­ing to hold talks with the Iraqi gov­ern­ment in Baghdad con­cern­ing re­stric­tions on air­ports, bor­der posts and banks.

THE KUR­DIS­TAN Re­gional Gov­ern­ment (KRG) of­fered to hold talks with Iraqi au­thor­i­ties on the sta­tus of air­ports, bor­der posts and banks after re­stric­tions were placed on them fol­low­ing an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

The gov­ern­ment in Baghdad, which de­clared the vote il­le­gal, im­posed a ban on direct in­ter­na­tional flights to Iraqi Kur­dis­tan after last month's ref­er­en­dum. It also de­manded that the KRG hand over con­trol of its bor­der posts and stopped sell­ing dol­lars to four KRG-owned banks.

"To avoid this col­lec­tive pu­n­ish­ment, we in­vite [Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter] Haider alAbadi again, and we are ready for any form of dia­logue and ne­go­ti­a­tions in con­form­ity with the Iraqi con­sti­tu­tion," the KRG said in a state­ment pub­lished overnight.

The KRG of­fered dis­cus­sions "re­gard­ing the cross­ings, in­ter­nal trade, pro­vid­ing ser­vices to the cit­i­zens, the banks and the air­ports."

The state­ment marked a change of tack from Iraqi Kur­dish au­thor­i­ties, which 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.

As a mea­sure against a pos­si­ble op­er­a­tion of Iraqi mil­i­tary, KRG pesh­merga forces yes­ter­day blocked roads to the coun­try's sec­ond-largest city Mo­sul in re­sponse to Iraqi troop move­ments, a se­nior Iraqi Kur­dish mil­i­tary of­fi­cial told re­porters.

"The two main roads con­nect­ing Ir­bil and Do­huk to Mo­sul were cut off on Thurs­day with sand em­bank­ments as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure after we de­tected an in­crease in de­ploy­ments and move­ments of Iraqi forces near the front line with the pesh­merga," he said.

An Iraqi mil­i­tary spokesman de­nied any at­tack on Iraqi Kur­dish forces was planned, say­ing gov­ern­ment troops were pre­par­ing to oust Daesh ter­ror­ists from an area near the Syr­ian bor­der.

How­ever, the Iraqi mil­i­tary downed a drone be­long­ing to KRG pesh­merga forces in Nin­eveh prov­ince, an of­fi­cer said yes­ter­day.

"Mil­i­tary forces downed the drone near the vil­lage of al-Salamiyah in the Nim­rud district south­east of Mo­sul," Army Cap­tain Bas­sam Saad told Anadolu Agency (AA).

Iraq's Supreme Judicial Coun­cil is­sued ar­rest war­rants on Wed­nes­day for the chairman of the KRG ref­er­en­dum com­mis­sion and two aides for "vi­o­lat­ing a valid [Iraqi] court rul­ing" ban­ning the in­de­pen­dence vote for be­ing against the con­sti­tu­tion.

Neigh­bor­ing Iran and Turkey back Iraq's un­com­pro­mis­ing stance and re­peat­edly ex­pressed com­mit­ment to Iraq's ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity and sovereignty.

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

Iraqi forces and Shi­ite paramil­i­taries, known as the Pop­u­lar Mo­bi­liza­tion Forces, are de­ployed south and west of Kirkuk, in ar­eas pre­vi­ously un­der Daesh con­trol.

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

The KRG, led by Pres­i­dent Ma­soud Barzani, held a con­tro­ver­sial in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum on Sept. 25, de­spite wide­spread crit­i­cism from re­gional pow­ers, the Iraqi cen­tral gov­ern­ment, the U.S., the U.K. and the EU. It passed with over 90 per­cent of the vote.

Lead­ers who op­posed the KRG ref­er­en­dum claim that Iraq's ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity must be pro­tected and that fo­cus should be honed on the fight against Daesh, ar­gu­ing that an Iraqi Kur­dis­tan would com­pro­mise the sta­bil­ity of a uni­fied Iraq and bring fur­ther chaos and con­flict to a re­gion al­ready reel­ing from in­sta­bil­ity, civil war and po­lit­i­cal tur­moil. The only coun­try to sup­port the KRG vote has been Is­rael.

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