The Council of Representatives of Iraq has given Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi a mandate to deploy troops to the disputed city of Kirkuk and its oil fields, as reported by Iraqi state media.
Kirkuk, the fifth-biggest city in Iraq and capital of the oil-rich Kirkuk Governorate, is not officially part of Iraqi Kurdistan, but is under control of Kurdish military forces. On August 29, Kurdish representatives of the Kirkuk Provincial Council voted in favour of participating in the Kurdish referendum, in a vote that was boycotted by Arab and Turkmen Council members.
The call to deploy armed forces to Kirkuk comes as a result of the September 25 referendum on Kurdish secession that, according to Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, resulted in a victory for the separatist camp.
However, the vote itself and its results have been deemed illegal and unconstitutional by Iraqi authorities. Prime Minister Abad has on Wednesday repeated his ultimatum to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), stating the KRG had to relinquish control over all airports in the areas under its control, or face a total ban on direct international flights.
“We won’t have a dialogue about the referendum outcome (…) If they want to start talks, they must cancel the referendum and its outcome.”, Abadi said in his Wednesday speech to parliament.
The regional KRG ministry of Transport has however already refused these demands, stating that they need the airports in order to combat ISIS forces in the region.
The official call by parliament to deploy troops to the city of Kirkuk marks another increase in tension between Baghdad and the KRG. On Tuesday, Iraqi and Turkish troops hosted joint military exercises near the Iraqi Kurdish regional border, in an apparent show of force towards Kurdish separatists.