Iraqi Kurds postpone polls in face of crisis

Iraq's Kurdistan region's President Massoud Barzani. (Reuters)
Updated 19 October 2017
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Iraqi Kurds postpone polls in face of crisis

IRBIL: Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region on Wednesday postponed presidential and legislative elections because of the current crisis with Baghdad, its electoral commission said.
The region’s Independent High Electoral Commission said it had “decided to suspend temporarily preparations for the elections set for Nov. 1 because of the current situation.”
Iraqi government forces announced Wednesday they had retaken from Kurdish fighters almost all the areas disputed between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region in response to a September independence vote.
The commission said it was down to the regional Parliament to set a new date for elections. It said it had not received any nominations for the presidential poll by the deadline.
Mohammad Tawfiq Rahim, a prominent rival of regional President Masoud Barzani, was the only candidate registered to run, but the commission ruled he had missed the deadline.
Longtime regional leader Barzani, the driving force behind the Sept. 25 independence vote that sparked the crisis with Baghdad, has repeatedly said he will not stand for another term.
Iraqi government forces said Wednesday they had retaken almost all the areas disputed between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region following a sweeping advance into oil-rich Kirkuk province.
Kurdish forces are now largely confined to their longstanding three-province autonomous region in the north.
The autonomous region’s vice president Kosrat Rasul called the setback “a new Anfal for Kurdistan,” a reference to the widespread deaths and destruction wrought by operations in 1987-1988 by Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, spokesman of the government’s Joint Operations Command (JOC), hinted that federal forces could yet be deployed to the remaining pockets of disputed territory still in Kurdish hands. “It’s not a military operation but the redeployment of forces to all areas to enforce the law,” Rasool said.
The JOC said Wednesday that “security (had) been restored in parts of Kirkuk including the key Khabbaz and Bai Hassan North and South oil fields.”
The lost fields accounted for more than 400,000 of the 650,000 barrels per day that the autonomous Kurdish region used to export in defiance of Baghdad.
Their loss deals a huge blow to the region’s already dire finances and dreams of economic self-sufficiency.
Meanwhile, Saudi budget carrier flynas on Wednesday made the first commercial flight from Riyadh to Baghdad since 1990, as ties with neighboring Iraq show signs of improvement.
“Our first flight took off today from Riyadh to Baghdad,” the company wrote on Twitter, posting pictures of the cabin crew and passengers.
Tickets for the maiden flight were advertised for as low as $7 excluding taxes.  
Flights between Iraq and Saudi Arabia were suspended some 27 years ago in August 1990 after former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein ordered his troops into neighboring Kuwait.


UN Syria envoy to step down next month

Updated 58 min 16 sec ago
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UN Syria envoy to step down next month

  • “I will myself be moving on as of the last week of November,” Staffan de Mister said
  • He said he was leaving for “purely personal reasons”

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations envoy for Syria announced on Wednesday he will step down at the end of November after more than four years in the key post, setting back UN efforts to end the seven-year war in Syria
“I will myself be moving on as of the last week of November,” Staffan de Mistura told the UN Security Council during a meeting on the crisis in Syria.
The Italian-Swedish diplomat, who became the UN’s third Syria envoy in July 2014, said he was leaving for “purely personal reasons” and had discussed his plans to leave with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“I am not laying down the charge until the last hour of the last day of my mandate,” he said.
De Mistura will be traveling to Damascus next week to push for the creation of a committee to agree on a post-war constitution for Syria.
Syria is resisting the UN-led effort to set up the constitutional committee that will be comprised of government officials, opposition members and representatives of civil society.
De Mistura was appointed UN envoy for Syria in July 2014 after veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi resigned following the failure of peace talks in Geneva.
Brahimi spent two years in the position, stepping in after former UN chief Kofi Annan quit just six months into the role.
More than 360,000 people have died in the war in Syria, which began in March 2011 as an uprising against President Bashar Assad but has since morphed into a complex war with myriad armed groups, some of which have foreign backing.