Iran closes main crossing with Iraq's Kurdish region

Iran closes main crossing with Iraq's Kurdish region

Iran closes main crossing with Iraq's Kurdish region

Baghdad today said that PKK fighters were among Kurdish forces in a standoff with the Iraqi army in the disputed oil province of Kirkuk, in what it said amounted to a "declaration of war".

In a statement published after a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and attended by top military and security commanders, the government said it will seek to impose its authority over Kirkuk and other disputed areas.

Kurdish leaders who met to discuss the crisis in the Kurdish town of Dokan renewed their offer to "resolve peacefully" the crisis with Baghdad, Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani's aide, Hemin Hawrami, said on Twitter. Kurdish Peshmerga forces moved into Kirkuk before IS reached the area, and have since held the province.

"Considering the developments in Iraq's Kurdistan, Iran has closed its Bashmagh border gate with Iraq's Kurdistan", Tasnim said without giving an official source.

The federal government has sent troops into areas around Kirkuk and soldiers haven't entered the city boundaries, Kareem, the governor, said.

Baghdad is demanding that Kurdish forces hand over oil fields, an air base and other infrastructure in Kirkuk, Ahmed Al-Askari, head of the energy committee at the Kirkuk provincial council, said Sunday by phone.

Despite Mr.al-Abadi's statements, Iraq's central government has made moves to isolate the Kurdish region with a series of measures in recent weeks, including banning global flights from landing there and demanding a halt to all crude oil sales by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Abadi's government, seeking to keep the country together, has taken measures to isolate the KRG, including a ban on direct global flights to the region. There were no clashes reported 21 hours after the deadline but tension remained high with both sides mobilized.

Peshmerga fighters say they are preparing to defend positions in the city against possible attack by Iraqi forces.

According to a report by the Iranian news agency Irna, Rapid Response, Counter-Terrorism and Popular Mobilization Units (Al-Hashad Al-Shabi in Arabic) take part in the operation.

In Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have rejected a warning from the country's paramilitary force to withdraw from a strategic junction in south of Kirkuk.

The Kurds have deployed thousands of peshmerga fighters to the area around Kirkuk itself and have vowed to defend the city "at any cost".

Both sides are U.S. allies, and Washington has military advisers stationed with the each group in the standoff working to ease tensions, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.

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