Baghdad rejects Kurdish proposal to freeze referendum results

Author: SUADAD AL-SALHYThu, 2017-10-26 00:21ID: 1508955775334416000BAGHDAD: Baghdad rejected an offer presented by Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Wednesday to freeze the results of September’s referendum, stop all military operations and start an “open” dialogue based on the constitution to defuse tension between the two sides, Iraqi federal officials told Arab News on Wednesday.
KRG had held a controversial referendum on independence, overwhelmingly backed by Kurds late last month. In response, Baghdad launched a huge military campaign last week to regain control over the northern city of Kirkuk, its lucrative oil fields and all the disputed areas gradually seized by the Kurdish authorities.
Iraqi federal forces involved in the military campaign have recaptured most of the disputed areas in the region and are positioned at the Kurdish region’s border approved by the 2005 Iraqi constitution which was written in participation with Kurdish leaders.
Armed clashes erupted between the advancing federal troops and the Kurdish forces in several areas on Tuesday. Several federal Iraqi soldiers were killed or wounded, local and federal military sources told Arab News.
The Kurdish offer is seemingly aimed at avoiding further bloodshed. “Clashes between the Iraqi forces and Peshmerga since Oct. 16 to date led to casualties on both sides and could lead to a war of attrition,” the Kurdish statement read. “Therefore, … we offer the following (the proposal) to the government, the Iraqi public and the world”.
KRG proposed to “immediately” cease fire and stop military operations in the region, freeze the results of the referendum conducted in Kurdistan and initiate an open dialogue between the regional government and federal government based on the Iraqi constitution, a statement circulated by KRG on Wednesday said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi has started a regional tour including Turkey and Iran on Wednesday to discuss joint interests of the three countries including the referendum. He has not publically responded to the KRG’s offer but said that Baghdad will not stop the military operations to regain control over disputed areas in the northern parts of the country.
“We are continuing to impose federal authority (in the disputed areas), and it is my duty to preserve Iraq’s unity and sovereignty and protect its wealth,” Al-Abadi told reporters on Wednesday in a joint press conference held in Turkey with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Baghdad has imposed many punitive measures on the Kurdish region in the last four weeks. It banned international flights to and from the region, stopped financial transactions with the region, rehabilitated its oil pipelines network which extends from Kirkuk to Ceyhan port in Turkey to bypass Kurdistan and resume oil exports, and filed a formal request to Iran and Turkey to shut down the formal crossings with the region.
Iran has shut down its three formal crossings with the Kurdistan, while Turkey has been coordinating with Baghdad to open a new crossing in preparation to shut down its crossings with the troubled region.
Al-Abadi’s Shiite National Alliance parliamentary bloc, the biggest in the federal Parliament, has said on several occasions that no talks will take place with KRG before they “publically announce the cancellation of the results of the referendum.”
“Freezing the referendum means it will stay like a time bomb which can explode any minute during the negotiations,” Ali Al-Alaq, a National Alliance leader and one of Al-Abadi’s advisors told Arab News.
“The (federal) government will not give up its condition. It is irreversible. Any talks should be built on the cancellation of the (results) referendum,” Al-Alaq, said.
On the ground, Baghdad has sent additional troops to be deployed in the newly captured areas in the north. A state of calm veils the region after Tuesday’s clashes and both federal troops and Kurdish forces remain in position since Tuesday night, local and federal military officers deployed in the region told Arab News.
In a separate development, the Iraqi joint military operations center has announced the completion of all military preparations to launch an offensive to capture the Iraqi border towns of Al-Qaim and Rawa, the last strongholds of Daesh in the western parts of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of leaflets were dropped on the two towns on Tuesday instructing civilians to hand over Daesh militants and avoid being near their sites.
“No specific date was chosen to launch the offensive but we have completed all our preparations,” a senior military officer involved in the operation who refused to be named told Arab News.
“We are waiting for the orders, and we don’t think we will wait for long,” the officer, said.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: KurdistanKurdistan Regional GovernmentKirkukKurdsIraqrelated_nodes: Iraqi Kurdistan offers to ‘freeze’ results of independence voteBaghdad to bypass Iraqi Kurdistan with oil exportsErdogan sees Israel’s hand in Iraqi Kurdistan vote

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