Agreement Ends Standoff between Iraqi and Kurdish Forces

23/08/2012 RUDAW By SAKAR ABDULLAZADA – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — A commander of the Kurdish armed forces, known as the Peshmerga, says calm has prevailed in areas of Nineveh province that were the scene of a standoff between Kurdish and Iraqi troops in late July.

Col. Hashem Sitayi, commander of the 8th battalion of Peshmerga forces, is based in Zumar, where Kurdish and Iraqi forces aimed their guns at each other for days before an agreement was reached. He said that now there is distance separating the two sides in Zumar.

Tensions erupted when Iraqi troops tried crossing Kurdish lines to control the border with Syria. Kurdish forces blocked their advancement and threatened to use force if the Iraqi army units proceeded.

The agreement was implemented after being approved by Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. It allows both the Iraqi and Kurdish forces to stay in their current positions and control the Syrian border from their respective sides.

“A point will be set up … that will act like a border between us. Neither the Kurdish or the Iraqi forces will be allowed to cross that point without the knowledge and approval of the other side,” said Sitayi.

When Iraqi troops tried to control the Rabia border, Kurdish sources claimed they were looking to provide support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the ongoing uprising. The standoff in Zumar came after months of tensions between Erbil and Baghdad over a range of issues, including oil and gas management and territorial control, along with deteriorating relations between Barzani and Maliki. Zumar is one of the “disputed territories” that both Kurds and the Iraqi government lay claim to. Unverified reports suggested that the two leaders might meet after Ramadan, which ended on Sunday, but a Kurdish lawmaker in Iraqi Parliament ruled out the possibility.

He said Maliki and Barzani now communicate through Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the former prime minister and head of the main Shia coalition of which Maliki’s group is a key component.