UN urges Iraqi Kurds to drop referendum
Iraqi forces capture area on Syria border from Daesh — military
The United Nations has urged Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani to drop plans for an independence referendum and enter talks with Baghdad aimed at reaching a deal within three years.
Jan Kubis, the top UN envoy in Iraq, offered international backing for immediate negotiations between the country’s federal government and the autonomous Kurdish region.
In a document seen by AFP, he proposed “structured, sustained, intensive and result-oriented partnership negotiations on how to resolve all the problems and outstanding issues” between Baghdad and Arbil.
The Kurdish Regional Government is embroiled in longstanding disputes with the federal government over oil exports, budget payments and control of ethnically divided areas.
Iraqi Kurdish lawmakers yesterday approved holding the referendum in the face of fierce opposition both from Baghdad and the Kurds’ international backers.
Kubis called for talks, overseen by the UN Security Council, that would aim to reach a deal defining “principles and arrangements” for future relations between Baghdad and the KRG.
In return, Barzani’s administration would agree to postpone the referendum at least until the end of negotiations.
“Here is this offer, if they accept this alternative, there will be negotiations,” Kubis told AFP.
He said he hoped to hear from Barzani “in the next two or three days”. “I hope they will consider the options and I am waiting for their answer,” he said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi armed forces yesterday dislodged Daesh from a natural gas-rich border area with Syria, according to the military.
Iranian-backed forces fighting with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s army simultaneously announced the start of an offensive to reach the same border area from the opposite side.
An Iraqi military statement said Akashat, a desert region located south of the Euphrates river, was captured in an offensive which had been announced earlier in the day.
The attack on Akashat is meant to pave the way for the recapture of urban centres in the Euphrates valley, including the border post of Al Qaim, it said.
Iranian-backed Shiite paramilitary forces known as Popular Mobilisation and Sunni tribal fighters known as Tribal Mobilisation took part in the offensive, it added.
The Iraqi air force dropped thousands of leaflets overnight on Akashat as well as on Al Qaim and the towns of Ana and Rawa, alongside the Euphrates, telling the militants to surrender or face death, the statement said.
Snipers belonging to the Imam Ali Division, one of the groups fighting within the Hashed Al Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitaries, during a military parade in Najaf yesterday.