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Iraqi Kurds say open to talks after Baghdad military operation

AFP , Thursday 19 Oct 2017
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A file picture taken on September 12, 2017 shows Iraq's Kurdistan region president Massud Barzani (R) attending an assembly with Kosrat Rasoul Ali (L), the first Deputy for the Secretary General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party, and other representatives of the Peshmerga and Arab, Kurdish, and Iraqi Turkmen tribal leaders in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk (Photo: AFP)
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The Iraqi Kurdish regional government said Thursday it was open to talks with Baghdad after central government forces seized a swathe of disputed territory from Kurdish fighters.

"The cabinet welcomes the initiative of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on starting negotiations with the regional government to solve pending issues according to the constitution and principles of partnership," it said in a statement.

"Kurdistan demands the help and contribution of the international community in sponsoring this dialogue," it added.

The statement was issued after a meeting attended by Iraqi Kurdish prime minister Nechirvan Barzani and deputy prime minister Qubad Talabani.

This week, federal troops and allied militias ousted Kurdish forces from the northern province of Kirkuk and its lucrative oil fields as well as formerly Kurdish-held areas of Nineveh and Diyala provinces.

The advance stunned Iraqi Kurds, who barely three weeks ago overwhelmingly voted for independence in a controversial September 25 referendum Baghdad said was illegal.

On Tuesday, Abadi said the poll was now "a thing of the past" and its results void, calling for dialogue with the Kurdish autonomous region.

Ahead of the operation to retake the disputed areas, Abadi had said he would not hold talks with Kurdish leaders until the results of the independence vote were nullified.

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