Baghdad Sets Deadline for KRG Forces to Pull Back

Baghdad Sets Deadline for KRG Forces to Pull BackBaghdad Sets Deadline for KRG Forces to Pull Back

Baghdad has set a pre-dawn Sunday deadline for Kurdish Regional Government forces (Peshmerga) to abandon positions in the disputed oil province of Kirkuk they took during the fightback against the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group, a senior KRG official said.

The reported ultimatum comes as thousands of Iraqi troops and allied militia are locked in an armed standoff with KRG Peshmerga fighters near ethnically divided but historically Kurdish-majority Kirkuk, TRT World reported.

Tensions have soared between the erstwhile allies in the war against IS since a Kurdish vote for independence last month, drawing urgent appeals for calm from the US-led coalition supporting the campaign.

"The deadline set for the Peshmerga to return to their pre-June 6, 2014 positions will expire during the night," the KRG official said asking not to be identified.

Asked at what time, he said 2am on Sunday (2300 GMT Saturday).

The official's comments came as Iraqi President Fuad Masum, who is himself a Kurd, was holding urgent talks with KRG leaders in the city of Sulaimaniyah in the south of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

No statements have emerged from the meetings.

The Kurds currently control the city of Kirkuk and three major oil fields in the province which account for a significant share of the regional government's oil revenues.

***Tensions Flare

Tension flared on Saturday in the ethnically mixed Iraqi town of Tuz Khurmatu after a clash between Kurdish and Turkmen political parties divided over the independence of the Kurdistan region, security sources said on Saturday.

A dozen Kurdish families were displaced from the predominantly Turkmen district of Askari to Kurdish neighborhoods of the town, after the two-hour clash in the early hours of the morning, the sources said.

The exchange of mainly automatic gunfire left no casualties, they said. It pitted members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan against Turkmen loyal to Shia political groups ruling Iraq.

Tuz is located 75 kms (47 miles) south of the multi-ethnic oil-rich city of Kirkuk, held by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and claimed by the central government of Baghdad.

****Turkish PM Postpones Visit

A scheduled visit by Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim to the Iraqi capital  Baghdad where he was to sit down with his counterpart Haider al-Abadi this weekend was postponed, said diplomatic sources in Ankara, Kurdistan 24 reported.

In their meeting, Yildirim and Abadi were expected to talk about punitive measures including economic sanctions and possible joint military action against the Kurdistan Region which held a referendum last month on independence from Iraq.

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