US coalition announces ceasefire between Iraq and Kurds, then retracts
News of the ceasefire came on Friday from coalition spokesman in Baghdad, Colonel Ryan Dillon, who eventually retracted his comments on Twitter.
However, the Kurdistan region’s spokesperson confirmed the existence of an agreement and said that the ceasefire “is holding,” according to Reuters.
While no proper ceasefire agreement was apparently brokered, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered a 24-hour suspension to military operations against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. The move was made in order to “prevent clashes and bloodshed between the sons of one nation,” the minister said, as quoted by AP.
Dillon earlier told the Kurdish Rudaw news channel that the coalition knew "that there is a ceasefire” and wanted it "to extend, to not be just a ceasefire for a short period of time, but that it extends and there is no more fighting.”
Dillon stressed that the Iraqi and Kurdish forces should settle their disagreements and focus on fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) instead of each other. The hostilities, which followed an Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum deemed illegal by Baghdad, therefore should be stopped, he argued.
“We are encouraging dialogue, and to trying to get to the right people through our contacts from both Peshmerga and the Iraqi security forces. So that something could be worked out diplomatically, and through dialogue, as opposed through fighting,” he added.
The apparently ongoing talks on the ceasefire follow some ten days of clashes between Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga which broke out in the aftermath of the September 25 independence referendum. The Kurdish vote was deemed illegal by the Iraqi central government.
On October 15, Iraq launched a massive operation to retake the oil-rich region of Kirkuk, controlled by Peshmerga but not a part of the Kurdistan region, which has been enjoying wide autonomy from Baghdad.
The operation went on without major clashes, as Peshmerga units largely withdrew from their positions. Both sides suffered minor losses during the clashes.