Iraq’s central government and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region have agreed to gradually withdraw their troops from the disputed territories in northern Iraq in a bid to end a tense military standoff.
The two sides, however, stopped short of agreeing on a specific timetable for the pullout.
A statement from Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani on Thursday said both Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) would withdraw their troops once local police helped by local organizations representing ethnic groups took over the security in the disputed areas.
“Security in these areas will be controlled and run locally by people there as well as local police. After establishment of these local groups, troops will be withdrawn,” Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s media advisor Ali al-Moussawi said.
The agreement comes a week after the Iraqi premier said that representatives from both sides had agreed upon the security issue of the disputed territories during their negotiations.
“The talks have taken a big step forward by accepting the proposal to leave the task of protecting the disputed areas to the people living there,” Maliki said on December 6.
The military standoff between KRG and Baghdad erupted in November after the Iraqi prime minister formed an armed force known as Dijla Operations Command and deployed it to Diyala, Kirkuk, and Salahuddin, the disputed provinces claimed by both the KRG and Baghdad.
Baghdad says Dijla fights terrorism in the territories, but the KRG argues that the force paves the way for the central government to gain control over the areas. The KRG has deployed its Peshmerga troops to the disputed areas.