US State Dept cautions Iraqi govt against troop advances in Kurdish territory
On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert urged the Baghdad government to only make troop movements that were “coordinated with the Kurdistan Regional Government.”
This marks the most specific statement out of the State Department on the situation since Iraq regained control over the provincial capital Kirkuk on Monday, following a popular vote of 92 percent in favor of an independent Kurdistan late last month. Previously, the State Department has stuck to general calls for calm on all sides.
Nauert’s statement also declared that the disputed Kurdish areas remained disputed, despite Iraqi authorities crossing into the region.
“The reassertion of federal authority over disputed areas in no way changes their status – they remain disputed until their status is resolved in accordance with the Iraqi constitution,” the statement read.
According to security sources cited by Reuters, Iraqi troops gained control of the last district in Kirkuk on Friday, taking the oil-producing province from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters after three hours of hostilities.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called the September 25 vote for Kurdish independence illegitimate, and said US policy rejects such unilateral moves.
This week, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters lost large swathes of territory held since 2014 or later, which had been gained during years of war against Islamic State fighters.