Iraqi PM suspends military activity in disputed regions

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Friday ordered Iraqi government forces to suspend all military activities in parts of the country disputed between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) for a 24-hour period.

According to a statement issued by al-Abadi’s office, the decision was taken with a view to “preventing further bloodshed between the people of a single nation”.

Tension has steadily mounted between Baghdad and the Erbil-based KRG since Sept. 25, when Iraqis in KRG-held areas -- and in several disputed parts of the country -- voted on whether or not to declare independence from the Iraqi state.

According to poll results announced by the KRG, almost 93 percent of registered voters cast ballots in favor of independence.

The unconstitutional referendum was heavily criticized by most regional and international actors, with many warning it would distract from Iraq’s ongoing fight against terrorism and further destabilize the region.

Over the course of the last 10 days, Iraqi government forces have moved into several parts of the country disputed between Baghdad and Erbil, including the oil-rich Kirkuk province.

The military deployments have led to several violent confrontations between Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, with limited casualties reported on both sides.