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

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.


Thousands return to government-seized areas in northwest Syria: state media

Updated 33 min 52 sec ago

Thousands return to government-seized areas in northwest Syria: state media

  • The Syrian Observatory reported “around 3,000 people” going home from other areas under regime control
  • The Idlib region is one of the last holdouts of opposition forces

DAMASCUS: Thousands have returned to their hometowns in northwest Syria after military advances by government loyalist against militants and allied rebels, state media said Sunday.
“Thousands of citizens return to their villages and towns of the northern Hama countryside and the southern Idlib countryside,” state news agency SANA said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, reported “around 3,000 people” going home from other areas under regime control.
Since August 31, a cease-fire announced by regime backer Russia has largely held in northwestern Syria, though the Observatory has reported sporadic bombardment.
SANA said the returns came amid “government efforts to return the displaced to their towns and villages.”
The Idlib region of around three million people, many of them dispaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition to forces backing Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Moscow announced the cease-fire late last month after four months of deadly violence that displaced 400,000 people, most of whom fled north within the jihadist-run bastion, according to the United Nations.
Regime forces had chipped away at the southern edges of the jihadist-run stronghold throughout August, retaking towns and villages in the north of Hama province and the south of Idlib province.
Syria’s civil war has killed more than 370,000 people since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.
Assad’s regime now controls more than 60 percent of the country after notching up a series of victories against rebels and jihadists with key Russian backing since 2015.
But a large chunk of Idlib, fully administered by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate since January, as well as a Kurdish-held swathe of the oil-rich northeast, remain beyond its reach.