ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdish Peshmerga forces are waiting for the formation of a new Iraqi government for talks between Erbil and Baghdad over the joint administration and security of disputed territories to begin, a Kurdish official said on Sunday.
Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias took control of most disputed areas between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq following last year’s referendum on independence for the Kurdish semi-autonomous region.
“Neither Iraqi security forces nor the Hashd al-Shaabi can completely secure and protect those areas [disputed regions] without the help and cooperation of the Peshmerga and Kurdish security forces,” Sarbast Lazgin, the deputy Minister of Peshmerga, affirmed in an interview with Kurdistan 24 on Sunday.
“This is a very important and strategic issue that, once the new Iraqi federal government is formed, Erbil and Baghdad have to discuss and address.”
Lazgin noted the US-led coalition recommends the KRG discuss the topic with the new federal government in Baghdad once parties finish their negotiations, which have been ongoing for months now, and form government.
“Coalition members know the truth and share the same point of view. In many meetings, they stated that Erbil should discuss this matter with the new government of Iraq to ensure Peshmerga can jointly [with the Iraqi forces] secure and protect disputed territories,” the Peshmerga official asserted.
On Saturday, Yezidi (Ezidi) officials in the city of Sinjar (Shingal) and surrounding towns told Kurdistan 24 that the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), had evacuated their areas, labeling the move as dangerous for Ezidis who fear further attacks like those committed in 2014 by Islamic State (IS) militants.
On Sunday, PMF denied news they were fully withdrawing from the province of Nineveh, stating their forces had merely been ‘repositioned’ in coordination with the Joint Operations Command.
Lezgin confirmed the militia forces had not withdrawn from Nineveh.
“As far as we are aware, Iraqi forces and Shia militias made some changes to their military structures,” but remain present in the disputed areas.
Editing by Nadia Riva