European Friends of Kurdistan call for dialogue between Erbil, Baghdad to resolve disputes
European Friends of Kurdistan (EFK) on Friday expressed their support for the Kurdistan Region including concerns over the gathering of Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia militia Hashd al-Shaabi in southern Kirkuk Province.
In a statement, the EFK in the European Parliament, which consists of 33 members, said they are “gravely concerned” by reports of a build-up of Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi forces, also known as Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), around Kirkuk.
The EFK stated that following the Kurdistan Region’s referendum for independence on Sep. 25, there is “a clear need for dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad.”
“It is only through such dialogue and negotiation that the future of Iraq and its people can be peacefully resolved,” the statement continued.
“Any threat or use of military action to resolve the current tensions would be of grave concern to us and harmful to the people of Iraq,” the EFK report added.
In the past few days, tensions have increased between the Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi forces, and PMF, namely around Kirkuk.
Kurdistan’s security and General Command of Peshmerga accuse the PMF and Iraqi forces of preparing to launch a major attack on Kirkuk following Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's recent military threats.
“We welcome the willingness of Erbil to engage in dialogue and negotiations following the referendum, and we call on the government in Baghdad to respond to this positively,” EFK added.
The group also thanked the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Peshmerga for protecting Kirkuk and surrounding areas from the advance of Islamic State (IS) militants since mid-2014 when Iraqi forces fled and failed to protect people from the extremists.
While the Iraqi forces continue to deny they have begun preparations to attack Kirkuk, the KRG said it would hold Abadi responsible for any possible assault or catastrophe between Peshmerga and Iraqi troops in the area.