Kurdish offer to Baghdad: Freeze independence referendum results, ceasefire and dialogue

The offer by the Kurdistan Regional Government is part of a plan to defuse tension with the Iraqi central government. An immediate ceasefire and halt to all military operations in the region have also been proposed.

The offer to freeze the results of the Kurdish referendum on independence was part of an attempt to contain the conflict with the Iraqi central government in Baghdad.

In a statement issued early on Wednesday, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) also called for an open dialogue between Irbil and Baghdad, based on the country's constitution.

"Continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country toward disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life," the government stated.

Read more: What you need to know about the Kurdish-Iraqi dispute

Politics | 20.10.2017

Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani decided to push ahead with last month's referendum for independence despite the objections of Baghdad, Turkey, Iran, the US and the United Nations. The referendum for Iraqi Kurdistan on September 25 returned 93 percent of votes in favor of independence.

Later on Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi traveled to Ankara for talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the referendum. In Turkey, the government has long been locked in a conflict with Kurdish separtists and the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is considered a terrorist organization by the government.

Kirkuk: Who's fighting in Iraq's Kurdish-controlled province?

Battle for Kirkuk

Only a few shots were fired, but Iraq's decision to send in armed forces into the Kurdish-controlled province of Kirkuk and bring it back into the fold has heightened tensions in the Middle East nation. Who's on who's side? And where is the territorial dispute going? DW takes a look at the actors and their motives.

Kirkuk: Who's fighting in Iraq's Kurdish-controlled province?

Iraq's army

In 2014, Kurdish forces went into Kirkuk to fill in the void left behind after Iraq's army collapsed from the "Islamic State's" military campaign. But three years later, the Iraqi military has been rebuilt and ridden a wave of victories against the notorious militant group. They're the main instrument of hard power for the Iraqi government as Baghdad fights for control of the oil-rich province.

Kirkuk: Who's fighting in Iraq's Kurdish-controlled province?

Shiite-dominated Popular Mobilization Units

Even during the liberation of Mosul, the Iraqi army was backed by the Popular Mobilization Units – an alliance of mostly Shiite militias. The Popular Mobilization Units joined the Iraqi army when it advanced on Kurdish-controlled positions in and around the city of Kirkuk. Kurdish politicians have lashed at the units, saying they're serving Iran's goal to destabilize the region.

Kirkuk: Who's fighting in Iraq's Kurdish-controlled province?

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is one of the main opposition political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan. Since the first Gulf War, the PUK has jointly administered Iraqi Kurdistan with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Both the PUK and KDP have their own peshmerga forces. In Kirkuk, PUK peshmerga fled the city, leaving it virtually unopposed to Iraqi forces.

Kirkuk: Who's fighting in Iraq's Kurdish-controlled province?

Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani is the ruling political party in Iraqi Kurdistan's parliament. Despite warnings from the central government, it was the KDP's Barzani who vowed to move forward on the independence referendum, infuriating Baghdad. KDP peshmerga fighters – like the PUK fighters – fled Kirkuk when Iraqi forces advanced on the city.

Kirkuk: Who's fighting in Iraq's Kurdish-controlled province?

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) was born in the 1970s out of an ambitious dream to create a Marxist-Leninist state in the Middle East to be called Kurdistan. In the 1980s, the group launched a bloody insurgency against the state of Turkey. While considered unwelcome in Iraq, the PKK has links with Iraq's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) – and likely appeared in Kirkuk to back them.

Kurds pushed out of Kirkuk

Wednesday's call for an immediate ceasefire and a halt to all military operations in the northern region followed a sweep by Iraqi forces as they took control of 14,000 square kilometers (about 5,400 square miles) of Iraqi Kurdistan in five days.

Kurdish fighters had occupied territory around the oil-rich province of Kirkuk during their three-year fight against "Islamic State" (IS) militants. Iraqi security forces fled Kirkuk in 2014 when it was occupied by IS. Kurdish peshmerga fighters, with the support of the US-led coalition, eventually drove IS out of the area.

Kirkuk was controversially included in the September referendum vote, despite opposition from Baghdad, its Iranian allies and the US.

The city of Kirkuk and the surrounding region are home to communities of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians. Last week, the deputy governor of Kirkuk, Rakan Saeed al-Jobouri, was appointed to run the city until a new governor can be chosen in municipal elections. He is the first Arab governor in Kirkuk since 2003.

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jm,es/cmk (Reuters, dpa)