By Amer al-Hassani and Hussein al-Amir
President Fuad Masum on Monday called for an end to “conflict” in Iraq’s northern Kirkuk province and the immediate resumption of dialogue between Baghdad and the Erbil-based Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).
“There is a need to stop the escalations in Kirkuk and resume dialogue with a view to resolving our differences within the framework of the [Iraqi] constitution,” Masum said on the sidelines of a Monday meeting with Washington’s ambassador to Iraq.
In a statement released by his office shortly after the meeting, Masum urged all parties to the dispute -- including certain media outlets -- to avoid what he described as “
He also voiced hope that concerned political forces “understand the dangers posed by escalating the situation”, which, he warned, “threatens to affect the future of all Iraqis”.
Masum also called on political leaders to “work on finding common ground on which to base immediate solutions to the problems in Kirkuk and in the rest of the country, especially between the federal government and the northern [i.e., Kurdish] region”.
Pentagon weighs in
The same day saw a U.S. Defense Department spokesman
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine Galloway urged all parties to avoid any resort to force, going on to reiterate Washington’s stated support for Iraq’s territorial integrity.
“We are warning all sides against damaging stability and undermining the fight against ISIS,” Galloway said, using an alternative acronym for the Daesh terrorist group, which still maintains a limited presence in war-torn Iraq.
Echoing the Iraqi president’s concerns, Galloway, too, called for the immediate resumption of dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil with a view to easing the political tensions caused by last month’s illegitimate referendum on Kurdish independence.
Tension has steadily mounted between Baghdad and the Erbil-based KRG since Sept. 25, when Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas -- and in several disputed territories, including Kirkuk -- voted on whether or not to declare political independence.
The referendum had faced strong opposition from most regional and international actors (including the U.S.,
In a related development Monday, a local security source reported that numerous Kurdish families had fled central Kirkuk towards nearby KRG-held areas.
Iraqi Army Captain Hamed al-Obeidi told Anadolu Agency that “hundreds” of Kurdish families had recently fled Kirkuk following the arrival of Iraqi government forces to the city’s southern entrance.
“Despite attempts by [pro-KRG] Peshmerga forces to stop them from leaving, many families are making their way towards provinces in the Kurdish region,” al-Obeidi said.
Early Monday, the Iraqi army began a wide-ranging operation aimed at capturing military facilities and oilfields in Kirkuk, which for years has been the subject of dispute between Iraq’s central government and the KRG.