US-Led Coalition Announces Cease-fire Between Baghdad and Kurds

A cease-fire was reached Friday between Baghdad and Iraq’s Kurdish minority temporarily halting clashes that followed a controversial vote on Kurdish independence last month, according to the U.S.-led coalition.

The coalition was informed of the cease-fire Friday morning and coalition officials are encouraging both sides to ensure “it’s not just temporary,” Col. Ryan Dillon told the Associated Press.

Clashes broke out earlier this month when federal forces retook the disputed city of Kirkuk and other areas outside the autonomous Kurdish region that the Kurds had seized from the Islamic State group. IS conquered those areas after sweeping across the country in 2014. Most of the Kurdish forces withdrew without a fight, but reports of low-level clashes continued and tensions remained.

The Kurdish referendum on support for independence was held in September in the three provinces that make up the Kurds’ autonomous zone, as well as in a string of territories claimed by Baghdad, but at the time controlled by Kurdish forces.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi demanded the annulment of the vote and the transfer of border control and other infrastructure to federal forces.

Kurdish officials offered this week to “freeze” the results of the vote, but al-Abadi rejected the offer Thursday.

The cease-fire comes after more than two weeks of mostly minor clashes and warnings from the coalition that the dispute was distracting from the fight against the Islamic State group.

The coalition said Iraqi and Kurdish troop movements and skirmishes stretched its intelligence and surveillance assets. Drones that previously kept watch over IS have been diverted to flashpoints in the disputed areas.

Dillon said Thursday the infighting had also hindered the movement of military equipment and supplies to forces battling IS in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Iraqi forces are currently fighting against IS in the last pocket of territory the group holds in western Anbar province along the border with Syria.

Source: Associated Press