Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has expressed willingness to hold negotiations with the Iraqi government regarding their dispute over the restrictions that Baghdad has imposed on the semi-autonomous region.
In a statement issued overnight, the KRG said it is willing to discuss its dispute with Baghdad over Kurdish airports, border posts and banks, Reuters reported on Thursday.
Iraqi website NRT also reported Thursday that the road connecting the Kurdistan region with Nineveh Province has been blocked by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
“The two main roads connecting Erbil and Dohuk to Mosul were cut off on Thursday with sand embankments as a precautionary measure after we detected an increase in deployments and movements of Iraqi forces near the front line with the Peshmerga,” AFP quoted a Kurdish official as saying.
However, another Kurdish official said later in the day that the barriers were removed.
“The closure was prompted by fears of a possible attack by Iraqi forces on the disputed areas,” held by Kurdish forces but outside the autonomous Kurdish region, the official added.
The move came after Kurdish authorities said late on Wednesday they feared Iraqi government forces and allied paramilitary units were preparing to launch an assault on the region.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi government spokesman has rejected speculations about Iraq’s alleged plans to invade the Kurdistan region, saying Baghdad will only fight Daesh Takfiri terrorists.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has reaffirmed the country’s determination to protect its Kurdish population against any threats amid the ongoing tensions.
Tensions have been running high between Iraq’s Kurds and central authorities in the wake of last month’s Kurdish independence referendum.
Much of the international community has been vocally critical of the referendum. Kurdish officials claim that over 90 percent of the voters in the semi-autonomous region have said ‘Yes’ to separation from Iraq.
In response to the non-binding Kurdish independence referendum on September 25, the Iraqi government has cut Kurdistan’s direct air links with the outside world, partially isolating the northern region.
Baghdad has also called on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to either cancel the result of the plebiscite or face potential sanctions, international isolation, and military intervention.
Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council has issued arrest warrants for the elections and referendum commission chairman of Kurdistan region and his two aides over the controversial referendum.
The Iraqi government has also decided to impose control over mobile phone operators in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and to relocate their headquarters to Baghdad as part of punitive measures against the KRG