Iraqi forces fire mortars at Peshmerga positions near Fishabur on Thursday. Photo: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered a 24-hour halt to military advances in order to allow for deployment of federal forces.
He stated that the 24-hour halt will allow a “joint technical team of the federal and regional forces to work on the ground to deploy Iraqi federal forces in all disputed areas, in Fishabur, and the international border immediately.”
Iraqi forces attempted to advance on the Fishabur border crossing on Thursday. The border point is located within undisputed Kurdistan Region territory where it borders Turkey and Syria. The Peshmerga stated that they repelled the attack.
This is being done in order to “prevent confrontation and bloodshed between people of the same homeland,” he stated, in an announcement released by his office Friday evening.
Kurdish officials have not yet commented on the brief halt announced by Abadi.
Coalition spokesperson Col. Ryan Dillon had said earlier on Friday that Iraqi and Peshmerga forces were in talks but there was no “official ceasefire” yet.
Hadi al-Amiri, secretary general of the Badr organization within the Hashd al-Shaabi, had told the BBC that the two sides had formed a “military committee” with the goal of reaching “political negotiations” and had begun a ceasefire Thursday night.
A Kurdish official had earlier confirmed that a ceasefire was in place. “The ceasefire is holding,” Vahal Ali, the director of Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani’s media office, told Reuters. “Diplomatic efforts are underway to set a date for talks to start between Erbil and Baghdad.”
The Kurdistan Regional Security Council said the Fishabur attack was a “blatant violation of the constitution” that prohibits the use of arms in political disputes.
The central Iraqi government wants access to the border with Turkey in order to conduct direct trade with Turkey, especially oil. Baghdad wants to bring back online an old pipeline exporting Iraqi oil to Turkey’s Ceyhan port. The pipeline was damaged by militants and then the territory it runs through was taken over by ISIS.
The offensive on Fishabur was the latest in a series of measures, including military, that Baghdad has taken as it seeks to exert federal control over the Kurdistan Region in the wake of the independence vote that saw overwhelming support for separation from Iraq in Kurdistan and the disputed areas.
Iraqi forces alongside the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi took control over most of the disputed areas in Kirkuk, Diyala, and Nineveh provinces last week.
Baghdad has also demanded Kurdistan Region’s international borders come under central control as well as oil exports, and has imposed a ban on international flights in and out of the autonomous region.
Updated at 6:39 pm