Abadi says Iraq to act soon over border areas in stand-off with Kurds

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi. (AP)
Updated 15 November 2017
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Abadi says Iraq to act soon over border areas in stand-off with Kurds

BAGHDAD/ERBIL, Iraq: Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, seeking to up the pressure in a stand-off with Iraq's Kurdish region, said on Tuesday he would act soon over border areas under Kurdish control but predicted his government's forces would regain them without violence.
The central government in Baghdad has cracked down hard on the Kurds since the government of the Kurdish autonomous region staged an independence referendum on Sept. 25 that Baghdad considers illegal.
The Iraqi armed forces have threatened to resume military operations against the Kurds, accusing them of delaying the handover of control of borders and taking advantage of negotiations to bolster their defences.
"We will regain control on border areas without escalation. But our patience will run out. We will not wait forever. We will take action," Abadi said at a news conference.
The independence vote defied the central government in Baghdad -- which had ruled the ballot illegal -- as well as neighbouring Turkey and Iran which have their own Kurdish minorities.
Abadi spoke a few hours after the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced a concession to Iraq's central government by saying it would accept a court decision prohibiting the region from seceding.

Retaliation
The announcement marks the Kurds' latest attempt to revive negotiations with Baghdad over their region's future after the central government imposed measures in retaliation against the independence vote.
Among the steps was an offensive by Iraqi government forces and the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces that took back the oil city of Kirkuk and other disputed territories from the control from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) last month.
The KRG said on Tuesday it would respect the Nov. 6 ruling by the Supreme Federal Court, which declared that no Iraqi province could secede.
"We believe that this decision must become a basis for starting an inclusive national dialogue between (Kurdish authorities in) Erbil and Baghdad to resolve all disputes," the KRG said in a statement.
Abadi had previously urged the northern semi-autonomous Kurdish region to abide by the court's decision.
The court is responsible for settling disputes between Iraq’s central government and the country's regions and provinces. Its decisions cannot be appealed, though it has no mechanism to enforce its ruling in the Kurdish region.


First Arab-EU summit billed as chance to cooperate in troubled region

Updated 22 February 2019
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First Arab-EU summit billed as chance to cooperate in troubled region

  • President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will host the two-day summit in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh
  • EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the gathering is about much more than migration
CAIRO: European and Arab leaders are to hold their first summit Sunday, in what the top EU diplomat sees as a chance to boost cooperation across a troubled Mediterranean region.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will host the two-day summit in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to discuss topics like security, trade, development and migration.
Wars and conflicts in places such as Syria and Libya are on the agenda at a summit guarded by the security forces who are fighting a bloody jihadist insurgency a short distance to the north.
But analysts voiced doubts over how much progress can be made, with Europe split over migration and Arab countries still grappling with the fallout from Arab Spring revolutions.
European leaders first mentioned the summit in Austria in September amid efforts to agree ways to curb the illegal migration that has sharply divided the 28-nation bloc.
But checking migration is only part of Europe’s broader strategy to forge a new alliance with its southern neighbors.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini insists that the gathering in Egypt of more than 40 heads of state and government is about much more than migration.
“We will have frank, open discussions, not only on migration, definitely not,” Mogherini told journalists in Brussels on Monday.
“We will have first of all discussions on our economic cooperation, on our common region,” she said.
“That is a troubled region but also full of opportunities.”
Attending will be Donald Tusk, president of the European Council of EU member countries, and Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm.
EU officials said 25 European heads of state and government will attend.
These include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who could also discuss the stalemate over Brexit on the sidelines.
Apart from El-Sisi, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri will attend from the 22-member Arab League, which is based in Cairo. It is not yet clear who else will be present.
A UN official warned that Europe’s failure to bridge divisions on migration “risks blocking all the other discussions” at the summit.
“How do you discuss an issue if you can’t even mention it!” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
He said EU countries like Hungary refuse to mention migration because they oppose asylum seekers and migrants, particularly from Muslim countries.
The EU has struck aid-for-cooperation agreements with Turkey and Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli, which has sharply cut the flow of migrants since a 2015 peak.
But the official said broader cooperation with the Arab League, which includes Libya, is limited without the EU being able to speak in one voice.
Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Tunisia and Libya, said the summit will struggle “to establish a dialogue between two sides who are confronted with their own challenges.”
The meeting comes as “the Arab countries are still feeling the effects of the revolutions started in 2011,” Pierini told AFP.
“Arab League unity is in trouble,” said Pierini, now an analyst with the Carnegie Europe think tank.
With expectations low for EU-Arab progress, the focus may shift to EU efforts to break the logjam over Britain’s looming exit from the bloc on March 29.
Britain’s Philip Hammond said May would have an “opportunity” in Egypt to discuss Brexit with her EU counterparts who have balked at her requests for concessions to sell the divorce to her parliament.
But officials in Brussels and London have played down the prospect of a Brexit “deal in the desert” to try to ensure an orderly departure.