US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Baghdad on Monday evening in an unscheduled visit to meet with Iraqi President Fouad Massoud and Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, and to call on Baghdad and Irbil to solve their disputes through dialogue.
Tillerson’s visit came hours after Abadi’s office rebuked him for his comments on the withdrawal of “Iran’s militias” from Iraq.
A statement issued by the Iraqi government presidency said that in his opening remarks at the meeting with Tillerson, Abadi said that “the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) is an official institution and is part of the Iraqi state institutions.”
The Iraqi prime minister added that the PMF fighters should be encouraged because they will be the hope of the country and region.
AFP quoted a source at the Iraqi government as saying that Tillerson and Abadi discussed the “government measures taken to restore the authority of the federal government in Kirkuk, in addition to the political and security situation.”
On Sunday, Abadi and Tillerson had attended a meeting between Saudi and Iraqi leaders in Riyadh aimed at promoting strategic ties between the two countries and countering Iran's regional influence.
Meanwhile, security sources in the Kurdistan Region pointed out to Iraqi military mobilization and the deployment of tanks and artillery near an area controlled by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, warning that they are aimed at recapturing the Khabur border crossing between Kurdistan and Turkey.
Reuters quoted on Monday security sources as saying that Iraqi forces are deploying tanks and artillery near a Kurdish-held area of northern Iraq where a section of a Kurdish oil export pipeline is located, as well as land crossings to Turkey and Syria.
“The buildup is taking place northwest of Mosul,” an official from the Kurdistan Regional Government’s security council said.
An Iraqi government security advisor said taking control of the land crossings was part of measures planned by Baghdad, Reuters reported.
On Tuesday, Abadi is expected to visit Ankara. Turkey’s Anadolu Agency quoted a prime ministry official as saying the Iraqi prime minister will meet his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim at Cankaya Palace.
The premiers would likely discuss ways to enhance cooperation in order to contribute to regional peace, stability and safety, the official, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on talking to the media, told Anadolu Agency.