The Kurdish regional government has announced that it will freeze results of the independence referendum to “avoid war” with the central Iraqi government, an official statement said.
“As Iraq and Kurdistan are faced with grave and dangerous circumstances, we are all obliged to act responsibly in order to prevent further violence and clashes between Iraqi and Peshmerga forces,” the Kurdistan Regional Government statement said on Monday.
The Kurdish government proposed to freeze the results of the independence referendum and immediate ceasefire and halt all military operations in the Kurdistan region.
The government also called to start an open dialogue between the KRG and Iraqi federal government.
The statement by Erbil reflects the increasing pressure on the Kurdish government by Baghdad as well as regional powers such as Iran and Turkey. In a swift military campaign, Iraqi troops, aligned with Shiite militias, took over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and other Kurdish-held towns on the Iranian border last week.
The statement on Monday said the clashes that have started on October 16 have caused damage to both Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga and “could lead to a continuous bloodshed, inflicting pain and social unrest among different components of Iraqi society.”
Erbil said the continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but “it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life.”
The independence referendum Kurdistan held last month was declared as “illegal” by Baghdad, threatening Erbil over a series of punitive measures if the referendum was not rescinded.
Erbil’s call for dialogue came hours after Iran-backed Shiite paramilitaries, allies of Baghdad, pushed to secure a three-way border crossing with Turkey and Syria called Fish-Khabur that is key to Kurdish independence bid. Pipelines exporting both Iraqi and Kurdish oil into Turkey cross from this region and the government of Prime Minister Heidar al-Abadi was decisive to control this territory.
All the fighting until Monday took place outside the Kurdistan region and Monday’s offensive marked a major escalation because the area falls within the Kurdish region. Kurdish security forces Peshmerga said they successfully thwarted the advance of Shiite paramilitaries.