Iraq says Kurds brought PKK fighters to Kirkuk in 'declaration of war'

16 October, 2017, 02:18 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • Barzani complained to the United States Coalition should be notified

Despite Mr.al-Abadi's statements, Iraq's central government has made moves to isolate the Kurdish region with a series of measures in recent weeks, including banning global flights from landing there and demanding a halt to all crude oil sales by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Barzani and other Kurdish leaders, who met to discuss the crisis in the town of Dokan, renewed their offer to "resolve peacefully" the crisis with Baghdad.

The conflicting assertions came a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Baghdad had no plan to attack Kurdish forces around Kirkuk, a city about 165 miles north of Baghdad that has been a focal point of tensions since the Kurds held a September 25 referendum on independence.

Nevertheless, thousands of heavily armed Iraqi troops and members of the Popular Mobilization forces, dominated by Iran-backed Shi'ite militias, have massed around Kirkuk. Iraqi paramilitary groups backing the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad had warned the Peshmerga to leave a position north of the Maktab Khalid junction by midnight Saturday, a KRG security official said. "We are waiting for new orders", he told Reuters. Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani arrived on Saturday in the Kurdistan region to hold talks about the crisis.

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Kurdish security officials said the deadline had been set for early on Sunday but Iraqi authorities denied it. The city and the surrounding area, including the oil fields, are under Kurdish control.

On Thursday, the prime minister and the Iraqi military reiterated that they had no plans for a military operation in Kirkuk and were focused on recapturing the last IS foothold in Iraq near the border with Syria. They are deployed to the south and west of Kirkuk.

Both sides are U.S. allies, and Washington has military advisers stationed with the each group in the standoff working to ease tensions, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said. The Peshmerga deployment prevented Kirkuk's oilfields from falling into jihadist hands. The United States has taken the side of the Iraqi government in refusing to recognize the validity of the referendum.

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