Federal Iraqi forces peacefully retake Kurdistan borders after deal with Iraqi Kurds

Federal Iraqi forces have peacefully taken control of all border crossings ringing the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) following an agreement with Kurdish authorities.

A reported agreement between Baghdad and Erbil facilitated the peaceful handover of the border posts to the federal Iraqi forces.

In a statement released on Friday, the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he had ordered a 24-hour suspension of military operations against Kurdish militants.

The halt in fighting “should allow a joint technical committee… to work on the deployment of federal Iraqi forces in all disputed areas, including Fish-Khabur, and the international borders,” the statement read. “This should prevent bloodshed between the children of the same country.”

The KRG confirmed that the truce had took effect at 1 a.m. local time on Friday (2200 GMT on Thursday).

Vahal Ali, the director of KRG President Masoud Barzani’s media office, told Reuters, “The ceasefire is holding,” adding, “Diplomatic efforts are underway to set a date for talks to start between Erbil and Baghdad.”

The development came less than two weeks after Iraqi government troops began an operation to take back positions held by Kurdish Peshmerga forces since 2014, when they joined the fight against Daesh terrorists.

The military campaign was a response to a controversial referendum on the secession of the Kurdistan Region and a refusal by the Kurdish militants who had overrun territory in the course of the fight with Daesh to leave those areas.

The KRG held the plebiscite on September 25 in defiance of strong objection from Baghdad and Iraq’s neighbors, particularly Iran and Turkey.

On October 16, the first day of the operation, the federal Iraqi forces managed to capture the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk.

Under mounting pressure, the Kurdish leadership offered on Wednesday to freeze the results of the vote and engage in dialog with the central government, but Baghdad wants the results to be totally annulled.