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Baghdad, Kurdish region finding solutions to ease tensions between them

Iraqi Kurdish security forces stand guard during a protest in Sulaimaniyah, in the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq, on December 19, 2017. (AFP)
BAGHDAD: The tension between Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdistan region has been reduced, and federal government teams have moved to the region to look at ways to improve relations.
They will discuss mechanisms for imposing federal authority in the region and solving the pending technical problems between the two, an Iraqi government spokesman told Arab News on Tuesday.
Gaining control of the international border and the border crossings between the region and Syria, Turkey and Iran were the main conditions sought by Baghdad in order to lift sanctions on the region.
Sa’ad Al-Hadaithi, the Iraqi government spokesman, told Arab News on Tuesday that two federal committees had been formed. One will check the numbers of government employees working in the education and health sectors to pay their salaries; the other will discuss mechanisms for imposing federal authority on the international borders and border crossings.
An invitation has also been sent by Baghdad for the formation of a delegation of technical experts to come to Baghdad and work on these two issues.
Another team has been formed by Baghdad to discuss the pending oil and natural resources issues between the two sides, Al-Hadiathi said.
“We are waiting for them (the Kurdish delegation). The visit should be soon,” he said.
“The working team will discuss the mechanisms for implementing the decisions and creating an atmosphere in order to activate them on the ground. There will be no discussions about the decisions (negotiations) themselves.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi said the federal government had already begun procedures to verify the number of government employees in the region in preparation for paying their salaries.
The tension between Irbil and Baghdad has been high since September, when the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) held a controversial referendum on independence. Baghdad responded by imposing a series of punitive measures on the region, including banning international flights to and from the region and shutting down border crossings with Turkey and Iran which reduced the province’s revenues by one half.
The KRG has expressed its satisfaction with the recent steps taken by Baghdad.
“From the beginning, the Kurdistan region sought the solution of the problem through dialogue, and certainly technical issues need to be discussed more than others,” Safien Dazaie, a KRG spokesman, said in a statement circulated by his office on Tuesday.
“The instructions and laws confirm that the joint administration is ready to discuss these issues related to airports and border crossings.”
Al-Hadaithi denied on Tuesday that Iran had opened the border crossings with Kurdistan and said Iran and Turkey had “clearly supported and cooperated” with the Iraqi government in imposing authority on the international borders. “There is nothing on the ground to support the claims that Iran has taken this measure,” he said.

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