Baghdad accused Irbil on Sunday of bringing members from the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, to Kirkuk, while it sent reinforcement from the army and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) to the southern part of the disputed city, in an attempt to remove the oil-rich region from Kurdish control.
Iraq’s National Security Council headed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement Sunday that the presence of armed men is a "dangerous escalation" and a declaration of war, also warning from the presence of armed militias "not belonging to the regular security forces in Kirkuk, including some PKK fighters.”
Meanwhile, Muhammad Haj Mahmoud, a Kurdish Peshmerga commander and leader of the Kurdish Socialist Party, told Asharq Al-Awsat that a meeting was held between the Iraqi army and Peshmerga forces on Saturday in Kirkuk in hopes of reaching a solution to the military crisis in the disputed areas.
Haj Mahmoud, however, denied being informed about the deployment of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards at the borderline between the two sides.
He said: “Peshmerga forces have fortified their positions in preparation for any incident. In Kurdistan, we confirm that we will not wage war. However, we will defend ourselves in case of an attack.”
Meanwhile in Irbil, Kurdish officials denied the presence of the PKK in Kirkuk.
“There are no PKK forces in Kirkuk, but there are some volunteers who sympathize with the PKK,” General Jabar Yawer, secretary general of the Peshmerga ministry, told AFP.
A meeting of Kurdish leaders attended by Iraqi President Fouad Massoum and Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani was held in the town of Dukan in the Suleimaniya province on Sunday.
The meeting ended with an agreement on five items, mainly to reject a demand from Baghdad to cancel the outcome of the independence referendum held last month as a precondition for talks on the dispute.
Following the meeting, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, who is also the KDP deputy head, said “the outcome of the referendum will not be nullified."