ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani on Tuesday addressed the people of Kurdistan following the advance of Iranian-backed Shia militia Hashd al-Shaabi and Iraqi forces in Kirkuk and other disputed territories.
In an official statement, President Barzani said the objective of the Kurdish leadership is to “defend the rights of the people of Kurdistan.”
He reassured that “the brave people of Kurdistan will one day reach their natural and legal objective [of independence].”
“Those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for Kurdistan have not been lost in vain, and the same shall be true for those who voted for an independent Kurdistan,” he said.
He also added that “Throughout history, Kurds have always defended their identity and their rights. Despite past atrocities against the Kurds, we have always pushed through peaceful means.”
“We have always tried to get our rights through peaceful means,” the President reiterated. “Our objective is to defend the rights of the people of Kurdistan and provide security for them.”
“We never wanted to fight, but fighting has always been imposed on us,” President Barzani explained. “We assure the people of the Kurdistan Region that we will do whatever is necessary to defend our achievements and provide security for our people.”
The President called on all political parties in the Kurdistan Region to remain “united and strong,” and also asked the media in the Region and Iraq to deal responsibly with the sensitivity of the recent developments in the region.
“What has happened in Kirkuk was the result of a unilateral decision by some members of a political party,” the President said, referring to a decision which paved the path for the withdrawal of Peshmerga forces.
On Monday, both Iraqi forces and the Shia militias took control of the city of Kirkuk, which has been under the protection of Peshmerga since mid-2014 after the Iraqi army collapsed and failed to defend the city from the Islamic State (IS).
Early Tuesday morning, Yezidi (Ezidi) units in the Peshmerga ranks said they reached an agreement with Ezidis within the Hashd al-Shaabi to let the militia enter the city without “any fighting or bloodshed.”
Although the Iraqi and Shia forces had not yet entered the area, Kurdish Peshmerga forces also withdrew from Makhmour and Gwer areas south of Erbil.
With their recent advances, Iraqi forces aim to regain control of most of the disputed territories between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central government of Iraq.
Tensions have increased between Erbil and Baghdad following the Kurdistan Region’s Sep. 25 independence referendum for secession from Iraq.
In the aftermath of the vote, the Iraqi government has imposed a set of punitive measures and sanctions on the Kurdistan Region for holding the plebiscite.
Editing by Ava Homa