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Iraq, Kurdistan Presidents Talk About Kirkuk Standoff

Iraq, Kurdistan Presidents Talk About Kirkuk StandoffIraq, Kurdistan Presidents Talk About Kirkuk Standoff

The presidents of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan have held talks to defuse an escalating crisis in Kirkuk province, as the Baghdad-imposed deadline for Kurds to leave military positions in the disputed oil-rich region expired.

A meeting between Iraqi President Fuad Masum and his Kurdish counterpart Masud Barzani was underway in Sulaymaniyah after a deadline set by the Iraqi government for Peshmerga fighters to surrender expired on Sunday, Iraqi media said, DW reported.

According to a Kurdish official, Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, also arrived in Iraq’s Kurdistan region to defuse tensions between Kurdish authorities and Baghdad following the Kurdish independence referendum.

The Kurdish forces were given a deadline of 2 am local time Sunday (2300 GMT Saturday) to surrender their positions and return to their pre-June 2014 positions. Unconfirmed local media reports say the deadline has been extended for another 24 hours.

At the scene, a photographer with Agence France-Presse reported seeing armored vehicles bearing the Iraqi national flag on the banks of a river on the southern outskirts of the city of Kirkuk.

“Our forces are not moving and are now waiting for orders from the general staff,” an Iraqi army officer told AFP.

Facing the Iraqi forces on the opposite bank of the river were Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

On Friday, Kurdish authorities said they had sent thousands more troops to Kirkuk to confront Iraqi “threats.”

Reuters news agency said Sunday Kurdish Peshmerga fighters had rejected the Iraqi warning to withdraw from a strategic junction south of Kirkuk.

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