US-led coalition says no ceasefire reached between Baghdad and KRG

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL
Published 27.10.2017 15:01
Updated 27.10.2017 18:00
A picture taken on Oct. 26, 2017 shows rockets being launched from Iraqi security forces' against Peshmerga positions in the area of Faysh Khabur, which is located on the Turkish and Syrian borders in the KRG region (AFP Photo)
A picture taken on Oct. 26, 2017 shows rockets being launched from Iraqi security forces' against Peshmerga positions in the area of Faysh Khabur, which is located on the Turkish and Syrian borders in the KRG region (AFP Photo)

The U.S.-led Coalition said its announcement about a ceasefire has been reached between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was "incorrect."

Col. Ryan Dillon said while talks are ongoing and clashes had temporarily ceased, an official ceasefire had not been declared Friday.

Shortly after Dillon corrected an earlier statement, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidaral-Abadi ordered a 24-hour halt to military operations in northern Iraq to deploy Iraqi forces.

Escalating tensions between Irbil and Baghdad erupted into violence earlier this month following a controversial referendum on independence held by the KRG in September.

Clashes broke out when federal forces retook the disputed city of Kirkuk and other areas outside the autonomous Kurdish region that the Kurds had seized from the Daesh.

The U.S. -- which has armed and trained both Iraqi and KRG forces -- has tried to calm tensions between the erstwhile allies in the fight against Daesh and refocus attention on the terrorists.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Friday that Ankara is closely observing every development in northern Iraq. "Whatever is occurring on the other side of border, indeed interests us in terms of politics, security and economy. We will follow up on the issue," he said.

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday urged Iraq's government and KRG leaders to set a timetable for talks on ending their conflict that has seen Baghdad snatch back swathes of territory in a lightning sweep since mid-October.

Iraqi government forces and the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization (Hashd al-Shaabi) militia launched a surprise offensive on Oct. 16 in retaliation to a Sept. 25 referendum on independence organized by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.

A mainly bloodless advance by Iraqi forces saw them take reclaim the entire oil-rich province of Kirkuk, stripping the KRG of a major chunk of their oil revenues and dealing a crippling blow to their hopes of independence.

Kirkuk fell to Iraqi forces without much resistance on Oct. 16 but the Peshmerga began to fight back forcefully as they withdrew closer to the core KRG territory. The most violent clashes happened in the northwestern corner where Peshmerga are defending land crossings to Turkey and Syria and an oil hub that controls KRG crude exports.

The latest push around Fish Khabur now risks taking Iraqi forces into territory inside the three core provinces that make up the KRG.

The area where the borders of Iraq, Turkey and Syria converge is also a key economic hub for U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces across the frontier, which is dominated by the PKK terrorist group's Syrian affiliate Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing People's Protection Forces (YPG). Iraq alleges that the area is used to smuggle out fuel.

Baghdad insists it has the right under Iraq's constitution to control the border and aims to revive a defunct pipeline that runs from the oilfields of Kirkuk to the area of the border crossing to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

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