Egypt urges Iraq, Kurdish region for restraint

Egypt urges Iraq, Kurdish region for restraint

Egypt urges Iraq, Kurdish region for restraint

Iraqi forces made rapid progress on Monday in their operation against Kurdish fighters in the disputed Kirkuk province, seizing a key military base, an airport and an oil field, commanders said.

"Their intention is to enter the city and take over (the) K1 base and oil fields", it said in a post on Twitter.

Abadi also sought that the Kurdish peshmerga forces "fulfill their duty under the federal command as part of the Iraqi armed forces".

The Iraqi government and the KRG have been at loggerheads since a September 25 Kurdish independence referendum, rejected as illegal by Baghdad. Iran and Turkey, both with their own restive Kurdish minorities, led regional opposition to the referendum and on Monday, Turkey's foreign ministry issued a statement stressing the need for Iraqi unity.

The operation comes as Kurdish Peshmerga fighters gathered to the south of Kirkuk amid an escalating row between the central government in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi directed the Armed Forces to protect all citizens in Kirkuk, following news that a vast territory in Kirkuk Monday will be restored, an official statement by Abadi said.

Brig Gen Bahzad Ahmed, a spokesman for Kurdish forces, said federal forces seized an oil and gas company and other industrial areas south of Kirkuk in fighting with Kurdish forces that caused "lots of casualties", without providing a specific figure.

The Defense Department remains focused on the fight against ISIS, a terrorist organization that threatens the states in the region and the worldwide community, Manning said.

Neither side reported any armed confrontation one hour after the initial report of the Iraqi advance.

A Kurdish father of four who was driving out of Kirkuk towards the Kurdish regional capital Erbil said: "We no longer feel safe". The KRG included Kirkuk in the referendum, prompting Baghdad to deploy troops closer to Kurdish positions in the area.

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Iraqi Kurdish dreams of achieving real independence depended on controlling the oil wealth of Kirkuk which is now lost to them, probably forever.

Oil prices could jump by $2 to $3 a barrel on any halts to exports be caused by fighting between KRG and federal government forces or by Turkey cutting off the pipeline from northern Iraq, he said. Iraqi forces advanced into the contested province with the goal of returning to positions they held before 2014, when they fled in the face of an Islamic State push. The Iraqi military said it seized two major oil fields outside the city.

The meeting was attended by Mr Barzani, Iraqi President Fuad Masum and Ms Hero Talabani, the wife of Mr Jalal Talabani, a Kurdish leader who died earlier this month.

The withdrawal of part of the Kurdish forces is ultimately a reflection of deep divisions between the Kurdish leaders and their parties, whose rivalry has always been intense.

The US has been closely allied to the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, but strongly opposed the independence referendum which it saw as provocative and divisive.

Some elements of Kurdistan's Patriotic Union Party, or PUK, whose forces dominate in the area, agreed to withdraw in coordination with Baghdad.

The status of Kirkuk and fate of the Kurds were left unsettled 14 years ago when a US-led invasion toppled Saddam.

Al-Abadi's Cabinet said Sunday that fighters from Turkey's Kurdish insurgency, the PKK, were beginning to appear in Kirkuk, and declared that would be tantamount to an act of war.

During the years of U.S. occupation that followed, Washington leaned on its Kurdish allies to keep their ambitions in check to avoid triggering another war amid an insurgency by Sunni Arabs. And while Iraq's oil revenues are supposed to be shared, disputes among the provinces have often held up transfers, leading parties to find leverage in holding the fields. It is no accident, analysts say, that President Masoud Barzani, whose term expired in 2015, slated the referendum two months before elections.

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