Kurdish leaders have dismissed the Iraqi government’s demand that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) annul the results of last month’s independence referendum in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
During a meeting between KRG President Massoud Barzani, Iraqi President Fuad Masum and Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, the widow of deceased former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, in the Kurdish town of Dokan on Sunday, Kurdish leaders renewed their offer to “resolve peacefully” the crisis with Baghdad.
However, they rejected what they described as “military threats” from Iraqi forces against Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, and pledged to defend the Kurdistan region in case of an offensive, Barzani’s aide, Hemin Hawrami, wrote on his Twitter page.
The report came shortly after Mala Karim, a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) official, told Arabic-language al-Ghad Press news agency that Iraqi Turkmen fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) had taken control of the Kurdish political party’s organizational committee headquarters in the ethnically-mixed city of Tuz Khurmatu, located some 88 kilometers south of Kirkuk.
He added that the pro-government PMU forces — better known by their Arabic name as Hashd al-Sha’abi – had established their control over the building after PUK members evacuated it.
Karim stressed that there was no gun battle between Turkmen fighters and Kurdish forces.
The referendum on secession of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region was held on September 25 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.
On October 12, an Iraqi government spokesman said Baghdad had set a series of conditions that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) needed to meet before any talks on the resolution of the referendum crisis could start.
“The KRG must first commit to Iraq’s unity. The local authorities in the [Kurdistan] region … must accept the sovereign authority of the federal government on … oil exports, [as well as] security and border protection, including land and air entry points,” the unnamed Iraqi official added.
The remarks came in response to an offer for dialogue made earlier by Kurdish authorities.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has already demanded the annulment of the referendum results.
During a recent press conference in Paris, Abadi said his government did not seek confrontation with Iraqi Kurds, but reiterated Baghdad’s position that the referendum was illegal and that problems should be solved within the framework of Iraq’s constitution.