The regional foreign minister of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has said that the semi-autonomous region has never intended to engage in a confrontation with the Iraqi military.
In an interview with broadcaster CNN, Falah Mustafa Bakir underlined the need for dialog between the KRG and Iraqi government in an attempt to achieve a common understanding.
He also noted that the ongoing dispute is mainly related to the future of people in the Kurdish
region and Iraq, and not about oil or the national flag.
The remarks came after the KRG announced its decision on Wednesday to postpone the presidential and legislative elections in the northern semi-autonomous region amid spiraling tensions with the Baghdad government in the wake of September 25 Kurdish independence referendum and a dire threat of civil war in the region.
The referendum was held despite strong opposition from the central government in Baghdad, the international community, and Iraq’s neighboring countries, especially Turkey and Iran.
Following the vote, Baghdad imposed a ban on direct international flights to the Kurdish region and called for a halt to its independent crude oil sales.
Officials open a ballot box at a polling station in Erbil after the Kurdish independence referendum in northern Iraq closed on September 25, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
Baghdad also set a series of conditions that the KRG needed to meet before any talks on the resolution of the referendum crisis could start, including KRG’s commitment to Iraq’s unity and sovereign authority of the federal government on oil exports, security and border protection.
On Wednesday, a senior Iraqi military commander said Kurdish Peshmerga forces have pulled back to the positions they held in June 2014, before the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group swept through the country.
The withdrawal came after the Kurds
handed over their positions in the northwestern Nineveh Province to Iraqi troops following a 48-hour operation against Kurdish forces in the disputed areas.
Baghdad has long wanted the Kurds to pull out of the territories they seized during their advances against Daesh.
On Monday, Iraqi government forces and allied fighters entered the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Kurdish Peshmerga forces withdrew without a fight and thus Iraqi troops recaptured some neighborhoods, the Kirkuk provincial governor’s office, key military bases and several oil fields.
The oil fields won back accounted for over 400,000 of the 650,000 barrels per day that Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region used to export.