'Significant progress' on Arab-Kurd row: Iraq speaker
BAGHDAD - Agence France-Press
Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, AP photoIraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi said on Saturday that "significant progress" has been made on resolving an Arab-Kurd crisis and a meeting on the issue will be held in Baghdad next week.
Nujaifi has been pushing to resolve a crisis between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq that he has warned could lead to civil war.
Tensions are high in areas of northern Iraq that the Kurdish region wants to incorporate over the strong objections of Baghdad, and there is a threat of conflict between Arab and Kurdish security forces.
"Significant progress has been made on the issue through gathering the parties to the crisis at the table of dialogue, and that is after their agreement to determine the time and place to hold meetings," Nujaifi said in a statement issued by his office.
"A technical and military meeting -- the first in this case -- will be held next Monday in the Iraqi ministry of defence in Baghdad," he said, terming it an "important development on the road to defusing the crisis." Kurdistan president Massud Barzani has said that Kurdish security forces known as peshmerga clashed with Iraqi forces in the disputed town of Tuz Khurmatu on November 16.
He ordered the peshmerga "to exercise restraint in the face of provocations, but also to be in a highest state of readiness to face any aggressive acts," while Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office later warned the peshmerga "not to change their positions or approach the (federal) armed forces." The unresolved row over territory poses the biggest threat to Iraq's long-term stability, diplomats and officials say. Relations between the two sides are also marred by disputes over oil and power-sharing.