Iraq says KRG is ‘delaying border controls,’ hints at military operation
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi late on Nov. 1 said the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had been deferring the withdrawal of their forces from disputed zones in the north of the country and hinted at resuming the operation to capture KRG-held areas.
The KRG have since “gone back on the accord” reached on Nov. 29 regarding the pullout of Kurdish peshmerga fighters from disputed areas, notably a border post with Turkey, al-Abadi was quoted as telling journalists by AFP.
“If they do not stick to it, we will do what we want, and if our forces find themselves under fire, we will show them the strength of the law,” said the Iraqi prime minister.
The KRG’s statement came after Iraqi forces set up positions between the Turkish and the KRG checkpoints at the border crossing between the Turkish town of Habur and the KRG town of Faysh Khabur on Oct. 31 and took control of the key border crossing.
The Iraqi Joint Operations Command also accused the KRG on Nov. 1 of using the talks that started between the two sides last week to “buy time” to strengthen Kurdish lines and said the Kurdish peshmerga forces did not withdraw from the Faysh Khabur border crossing area as it had promised during previous talks.
“We will not allow it; the federal forces are mandated to secure [the disputed] areas and borders,” it said in a released statement quoted by Reuters.
On Nov. 2, the KRG said it has offered a joint KRG-Iraqi deployment at a strategic crossing into Turkey, with the participation of the U.S.-led coalition.
The deployment was meant “as a goodwill gesture and trust-building exercise that ensures a limited and temporary arrangement until an agreement is reached in accordance with the Iraqi constitution,” said a statement from the KRG’s defense department, Reuters has reported.
The KRG also accused Iraqi forces of massing weapons and threatening force to resolve “domestic political differences.”
The KRG defense department said its offer of a joint KRG-Iraqi deployment was part of a “deconfliction” proposal made to the Iraqi central government on Oct. 31.
The KRG “continues to welcome a permanent ceasefire on all fronts, deconfliction and the start of a political dialogue” with Baghdad, its statement said.
The issue of control of the border crossing is of crucial importance for the KRG. The Faysh Khabur crossing is the site of the main oil export pipeline for northern Iraq, and crude exports through it are the principal source of funds for the area.
The balance of power between Iraqi central government forces and the KRG has been transformed since the latter’s non-binding independence referendum on Sept. 25, opposed by the central Iraqi government in Baghdad as well as Iran, Turkey and Western allies.
Al-Abadi ordered economic and military retaliation following the KRG’s referendum, which had been declared illegal by Baghdad.