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Baghdad, Kurdistan Regional Government agree to end disputes

Dust clouds swirl around an Iraqi rocket launcher after a strike against Kurdish Peshmerga positions in Fiesh Khabur in the Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region. (AFP)
TOPSHOT - A picture taken on October 26, 2017 shows rockets being launched from Iraqi security forces' against Kurdish Peshmerga positions in the area of Faysh Khabur, which is located on the Turkish and Syrian borders in the Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region. / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE
BAGHDAD: Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Friday reached an agreement for the handover of airports and border crossings to Baghdad, and the redeployment of federal forces, within 24 hours, federal officials told Arab News.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s media office said he had ordered a halt to the movement of federal forces for 24 hours so a technical team of federal and regional forces can work to deploy federal forces in all disputed areas and the Habur border crossing.
A senior federal security official told Arab News that the agreement was supervised by the US-led coalition fighting Daesh in Iraq.
The KRG has agreed to withdraw all Kurdish forces from disputed areas next to Irbil and Duhok provinces, hand over airports and border crossings to federal security forces, and publically announce the cancelation of the results of last month’s independence referendum.
This will be followed by the formation of a high-level Kurdish political delegation in order to start talks with Baghdad based on the constitution.
“A federal security delegation will travel to Irbil to discuss mechanisms to implement the agreement and the handover of airports and border crossings,” an official said on condition of anonymity.
“If the terms of the agreement aren’t implemented in 24 hours, federal troops will resume action and push to achieve the last targets of the military campaign.”
Federal security forces repositioned near the outskirts of Irbil, and were pushing to gain control of the northern border triangle between Syria, Iraq and Turkey.
The area contains an oil pipeline used by the KRG to export oil. Clashes erupted there last week between advancing federal troops and Kurdish forces, with fatalities on both sides.
Field military sources told Arab News that the situation on the frontlines is calm, and federal forces have not left their positions since Thursday night.
“Generally there’s calm on all fronts, and there have been no movements or clashes between federal forces and Kurdish forces today (Friday),” Lt. Gen. Jabar Yawar, general secretary of the Peshmerga Ministry, told Arab News.
Friday’s cease-fire was agreed amid US pressure on Al-Abadi, sources told Arab News. The deal was reached after a 15-minute phone call between KRG President Masoud Barzani and Al-Abadi. The call followed a meeting of military leaders from both sides, sources said.
Another high-level security meeting, headed by Al-Abadi, was held in Baghdad to discuss the agreement, and resulted in the formal announcement of the cease-fire, a source involved in the meeting told Arab News.
“The cease-fire is holding,” said Vahal Ali, director of Barzani’s media office. “Diplomatic efforts are underway to set a date for the beginning of talks between Irbil and Baghdad.”
In an interview with Kurdish TV Rudaw, the spokesman of the US-led anti Daesh coalition in Baghdad, Col. Ryan Dillon, called on the two sides to extend the deal to a complete halt in hostility and “refocus our efforts on defeating ISIS (Daesh).” 
He added: “We are encouraging dialogue, we are trying to get the tensions down.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Al-Abadi urging for dialogue to start, the Iraqi central government said in a statement.
Iraqi government forces, Iranian-backed militias and Kurdish troops fought alongside each other to defeat Daesh, but the alliance has faltered with the militants largely defeated in the country.
Iraqi government forces and the Tehran-backed Popular Mobilization launched a surprise offensive on Oct. 16 in retaliation to the Sept. 25 independence referendum organized by the KRG.
The offensive aims to capture disputed territories, claimed by both the KRG and the Iraqi central government, as well as border crossings and oil facilities.
The city of Kirkuk, which lies in an oil producing area, fell to Iraqi forces without much resistance on Oct. 16 but the Peshmerga began to fight back as they withdrew closer to the Kurdish autonomous region.
The most violent clashes happened in the northwestern corner where Peshmerga are defending land crossings to Turkey and Syria and an oil hub that controls KRG crude exports, located in the region of Fish-Khabur.

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