ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Prime Minister of Iraq and his Minister of Interior are at odds over the deployment of forces to the Kurdistan Region’s Sulaimani province which resulted in a standoff between Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi troops, according to sources.
Officials in the office of the Iraqi Presidency who wished to remain anonymous told the Saudi newspaper Okaz that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had “scolded” his Interior Minister, Qassim al-Araji, for “interfering in the affairs of the army.”
The sources claimed Abadi expressed anger over Araji preventing the Iraqi forces’ march on Sulaimani after Peshmerga threatened to defend the 2003 lines of contact no matter what. Kurdish security forces had been deployed to the province during last week’s protests which erupted in cities around the Kurdistan Region.
According to the sources, Araji maintained that his intervention prevented armed clashes between the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces near the disputed village of Qala. “Peshmerga were about to attack the Iraqi forces which were preparing to take control over a road between [the disputed towns of] Jalawla and Kalar towns.”
Abadi, however, viewed the Minister’s “personal act” as exceeding his mandate and “impeding the advance of Iraqi forces.” The Prime Minister allegedly also asked Araji to withdraw the troops he deployed to act as mediators between the two warring sides.
On Tuesday, Araji met with Dler Ahmed, the Director General of the Kurdistan Region's Residence and Passport Office. Ahmed mentioned the meeting was positive as the Interior Minister expressed sympathy for the people of the Kurdistan Region.
To the Iraqi Minister, the closure of the airports and international borders in the aftermath of the Sep. 25 referendum on independence for Kurdistan was “not a viable solution,” Ahmed reported. He also noted that Araji committed to meet with Abadi and encourage the latter to lift Baghdad’s embargo on the Kurdistan Region.
Other Iraqi officials, including the Vice-Presidents, have called for dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad to begin. On Wednesday, Abadi affirmed technical talks between the two sides would soon start but that political negotiations would come later.
Ties between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq have considerably deteriorated following the Sep. 25 referendum on independence in Kurdistan.
Baghdad imposed punitive measures and an embargo on the Kurdistan Region and asked for the full annulment of the referendum results as a pre-condition to any dialogue.