Iraqi security forces gather outside the Kurdish-held city of Altun Kupri on the outskirts of Irbil, Iraq, October 19, 2017. Khalid Mohammed/AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Meetings between military delegations of the Kurdistan Region and Iraqi government continued negotiations to reach an agreement on outstanding issues, particularly focusing on the deployment of Iraqi forces to borders and disputed areas.
“The discussions with the Kurdistan Region’s delegation are positive. We have reached an agreement on deploying Iraqi forces in all border ports and we will reach the phase of handing over the airports. This way, we implemented what is contained in the Iraqi constitution,” said Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim Ahraji in a televised interview.
Jabar Yawar, the secretary general of the Peshmerga ministry, has said that the two sides have so far had shared positions on only one issue.
After Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered military movements halted on October 27, military delegations from the Kurdistan Region and Iraqi government met and have so far held three meetings.
“There currently are no big problems between the central and Kurdistan Regional government, except for the federal government supervising border ports, airports and oil fields in accordance with Article 112 of the Iraqi constitution which states that oil is the property of the Iraqi nation,” added Ahraji.
The US-led global coalition to defeat ISIS confirmed to Rudaw English it has attended some of the meetings.
“Dialogue remains the best option to defuse tensions,” said coalition spokesperson Ryan Dillon, a US army colonel.
Two of these meetings were held in Mosul and one in the Kurdistan Region.
“We don’t intend to punish Kurdistan’s nation for any stance they may take. We should all gather under the umbrella of the constitution. We can amend the constitution if there are people having a problem with some articles in the constitution. We are optimistic about the future of Iraq. All the problems between central and Kurdistan Regional government will be resolved in the near future,” Ahraji detailed.
Yawar said that these meetings will continue and will generally focus on two questions. First is deploying joint forces in disputed areas. There are similar views on this issue on both parts.
The second topic is managing border ports, especially Ibrahim Khalil and Fishkhabur. There are different opinions on the question.
The coalition has complained that fighting between Iraqi security forces and Peshmerga threatens to halt logistical support for its forces in Syria.
Fishkhabur is used by the coalition to transport supplies from the Kurdistan Region into eastern Syria.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in an interview on Tuesday that Peshmerga forces must come under the control of Baghdad or be downsized.
He also said Iraq's federal authorities will impose exclusive control over all international entry points to and from the Kurdistan Region.
The final messaged conveyed on Tuesday on behalf the Kurdistan Region by the Peshmerga to Iraq and Prime Minister Haider Abadi is that the Peshmerga will in no way allow the Iraqi army or Hashd al-Shaabi to fly the flag of Hussein and Ali or station their military in Fishkhabur or Ibrahim Khalil. The Kurdish delegation has told Baghdad that this is unacceptable.
The Kurdish delegation has told Baghdad that it can send civilian employees to Fishkhabur or Ibrahim Khalil within the framework of the Iraqi constitution. But they question bringing an army to these places which already have security and border patrol guards.
The Kurdish delegation has told Baghdad not to set a deadline or ultimatum for dialogue.
Updated to add Peshmerga warnings about Shiite banners at border points at 9:22 p.m.