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Iraqi Forces Seize Key Sites in Kirkuk, Kurdish Stronghold

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Kurdish security forces
Iraqi security forces and Popular Mobilization Forces patrol in Tuz Khormato, that was evacuated by Kurdish security forces, 210 kilometers north of Baghdad, Iraq. voa

Baghdad, October 2017: Iraqi forces took over more oil fields near the city of Kirkuk on Tuesday, along with the town of Sinjar, as they expanded a pushback against Kurdish control of areas outside of their semi-autonomous region.

The military said Kurd fighters withdrew from the Bai Hasan and Avana oil fields, leaving federal security forces to take over.

A similar dynamic played out in Sinjar where pro-government forces moved into the town Tuesday after the Kurdish Peshmerga moved out.

Tuesday’s developments followed a swift move by government forces Monday to capture the Kirkuk governor’s office, key military sites and an oil field. The U.S.-trained troops, acting on orders from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, raised Iraqi flags.

Kurds had held the city since 2014 when they secured it against Islamic State fighters. But the central government had demanded they relinquish control, and moved to act following a Kurd independence referendum last month.(VOA)

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US Backtracks on Iraqi, Kurd Cease-fire Claim

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An Iraqi soldier removes a Kurdish flag from Altun Kupri
An Iraqi soldier removes a Kurdish flag from Altun Kupri on the outskirts of Irbil, Iraq. VOA

Iraq, October 27: The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State announced Friday morning a cease-fire between Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga in Northern Iraq but quickly backtracked on the claim, saying it is not an “official” cease-fire.

Army spokesman Ryan Dillon posted a clarification on Twitter to say “both parties (are) talking with one another,” but that a “cease-fire” had not been reached.

The Iraqi military and the Kurdish minority have been clashing for several weeks after the Iraqi troops moved to secure areas in northern Iraq that had been seized from IS jihadists by Kurdish forces. The Kurdish forces abandoned the land largely without resistance, though low-level clashes have been reported.

Iraqi PM rejects Kurdish offer

The areas Iraqi forces are moving into were mostly under Baghdad’s control in 2014, when Islamic State militants swept into the region. Kurdish Peshmerga and coalition forces recaptured the lands, and the Kurdistan Region has since held them.

The Iraqi leadership said it is retaking the areas to establish federal authority after a Kurdish referendum for independence in September threatened the nation’s unity. More than 92 percent of Kurds in Iraq voted “yes” in a vote Baghdad called illegal, and the international community leaders said was dangerous and ill-timed.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday rejected an offer by Kurdish leaders to freeze the results of their independence referendum in favor of dialogue in order to avoid further conflict.

The Kurdistan Regional Government, in a statement, said the confrontations have hurt both sides and could lead to ongoing bloodshed and social unrest in Iraq.

“Certainly, continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life,” the KRG said.

‘Unified Iraq is the only way to go’

Abadi said in a statement his government will accept only the annulment of the referendum and respect for the constitution.

During a briefing Friday morning at the Pentagon, Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. told reporters the U.S. believes “a unified Iraq is the only way to go forward.”

He added, “We’re not helping anyone attack anyone else inside Iraq, either the Kurds or the Iraqis.”(VOA)

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Iraqi Kurds Propose Setting Aside Referendum, Starting Dialogue

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A group of Kurds dance in a show of solidarity with Iraqi Kurds who on Sept. 25 will be voting in an independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, in Washington. VOA

Iraq, October 25: The government in Iraq’s Kurdistan region offered Wednesday to freeze the results of an independence referendum and start a dialogue with the central government in Baghdad in order to prevent any further violence between the two sides.

Last week, Iraqi forces seized the city of Kirkuk and other disputed areas held by the Kurds in response to the referendum, which Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government declared illegal.

The Kurdistan Regional Government’s statement said the confrontations have hurt both sides and could lead to ongoing bloodshed and social unrest in Iraq.

“Certainly, continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life,” the KRG said.

In addition to setting aside the referendum and proposing talks, the Kurds also called for an immediate halt to all military operations in their northern region of Iraq.(VOA)

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Iraqi Kurdish Leader Claims Victory in Independence Referendum

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Iraqi Kurds
Kurds celebrate voting for Independence referendum from Iraq. (voa)

Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani on Tuesday claimed victory in the referendum vote for independence and called for a “dialogue” with Iraqi authorities, who have rejected the vote as unconstitutional.

“Instead of harassment, let’s have dialogue for a better future,” he said, adding, “Negotiations are the right path to solve the problems, not threats or the language of force.”

On Monday, Iraqi Kurdish voted on an independence referendum that drew objection from the government in Baghdad, as well as neighboring countries and the United States.

In response to the vote, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi threatened to ban all flights into and out of the Kurdish region if leaders there didn’t concede control of airports to federal authorities.

Al-Abadi said the Kurdish region has until Friday to hand over the airports or the ban will be put into place.

The referendum vote is non-binding, but Barzani said he hopes the “yes” vote will lead to increased dialogue between the Kurds and Iraqi government.

“I call on Mr. Haider al-Abadi and the others [Iraqi political officials] not to close the door to dialogue, because it is dialogue that will solve problems,” he said in a televised address. “We assure the international community of our willingness to engage in dialogue with Baghdad.”

At the polls in the Kurdistan Regional capital, many voters donned trditional clothes and carried Kurdish flags, saying they believed this vote could be the beginning of the realization of their dream for independence. (VOA)