Iraqi forces gather at their camp on the front line in the northwestern town of Fishkhabur, near the borders with Syria and Turkey, on October 28, 2017. Photo: AFP / Ahmad al-Rubaye
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi and Kurdish military officials have met again on Thursday in Mosul to discuss the military standoff between them and the deployment of Iraqi forces to the disputed areas. They have not yet reached an agreement in talks being overseen by the US.
The two are continuing to meet despite the Iraqi army announcing on Wednesday that talks had failed
. The Iraqis accused the Peshmerga of trying to buy time, an allegation denied by the Kurdish force.
Babakir Zebari, a veteran Peshmerga and former chief of staff of the Iraqi army, told Rudaw that the Thursday talks are a continuation of the previous discussions.
“As part of the ongoing talks between Erbil and Baghdad, today the delegations of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq met in Mosul to solve the current situation,” Zebari told Rudaw.
Rudaw understands that the Peshmerga responded to the demands of the Iraqi military in Thursday’s meeting.
The Iraqi military issued a statement on Wednesday saying that the talks had failed after Kurdish officials withdrew from a draft agreement, bringing the two sides back to “square one.” It called the Peshmerga “armed groups linked to Erbil” and said they will become a target for the Iraqis if they confront federal forces in the disputed areas and on the international borders.
The Peshmerga issued a counter statement denying that there was an agreement in the first place and describing Iraqi demands as “unconstitutional” and posing a threat to the Kurdistan Region.
The Peshmerga said they are stationed in their defensive lines and ready to protect the Kurdistan Region and its people.
The Kurdish statement explained that the Peshmerga are open to a ceasefire, joint administration of the disputed areas, establishment of “deconfliction” with Iraqi forces, and as a show of good will would temporarily allow for a joint deployment of Iraqi forces with Peshmerga and US representatives to the Fish Khabur border crossing near the Syrian and Turkish borders.
The border crossing is strategic since Iraqi and Kurdish oil is exported to Turkey through the area that is part of the undisputed territories of the Kurdistan Region.
Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga were engaged in military confrontations from October 16 to October 27. The Kurdistan Regional Government had offered to halt military operations and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced a ceasefire on Friday to allow for security talks between the two sides. Abadi said at the time that the truce was to avoid bloodshed while the two sides enter talks to secure the deployment of federal forces to the disputed or Kurdistani areas and the international borders.
Iraqi forces, supported by the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi, started a military incursion on October 16 that resulted in taking over the oil-rich and diverse Kirkuk province, and large areas of the disputed areas previously held by Erbil forces. The military advance was one of a series of measures in response to the Kurdistan independence referendum conducted by Erbil on September 25 that saw nearly 93 percent support for leaving Iraq. Baghdad strongly opposed the vote, calling it “unconstitutional.”
Abadi stated on Wednesday that Erbil had asked for negotiation, but he said the Kurdistan Region must first cancel the outcome of the referendum.