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Iraq: Armed forces continue to take back control of area near Turkish border

Armed forces continue advance to take back control of Kurdish Peshmerga-controlled areas outside delineated border of Iraqi Kurdistan

TIMEFRAME expected from 10/27/2017, 12:00 AM until 10/29/2017, 11:59 PM (Asia/Baghdad). COUNTRY/REGION Iraq

Event

Iraqi armed forces, police and Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), continued to advance into Kurdish Peshmerga-controlled areas in northwestern Nineveh province on Thursday, October 26, with the apparent objective of taking back control of the area between the Syrian border and Mosul Lake, corresponding to the 2003 Green Line. Iraqi forces have taken control of Rabiah border crossing with Syria and continued low-level skirmishes were reported by local media to the north near the Syrian-Turkish border in the Fishkhabur area. These incidents appear to be isolated and there are contradicting reports of the scale of the skirmishes. Iraqi forces have stated that their goal is to advance to the Turkish border and take control of the main border crossing point with Turkey. It was also reported that Iraqi forces re-established control over Makhmour district, to the southeast of Mosul, following the withdrawal of Peshmerga forces.

Additionally, the Iraqi and Kurdish Regional (KRG) governments reportedly agreed to a ceasefire on Friday, October 27, to temporarily end ongoing skirmishes in northern Iraq. Details of the ceasefire are still emerging: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Friday a 24-hour ceasefire, effective immediately, and a "halt to [military] movements" in areas disputed by the KRG and Baghdad. KRG officials reported on Friday that a ceasefire had been reached between the sides and had taken effect at 01:00 (local time) that day.

Context

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) offered on Wednesday, October 25, to "freeze" the results of the September 25 referendum on independence in order to engage Baghdad in diplomatic negotiations. The vote was previously deemed unconstitutional by Baghdad; the "yes" vote for independence won with 92 percent of votes cast. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi subsequently rejected the offer to "freeze" the referendum results on Thursday, October 26, and demanded that Kurdish leaders annul the referendum and its results and adhere to the Iraqi constitution.

These recent developments follow failed negotiations between the central government in Baghdad and the KRG on October 15. The situation currently remains fluid; despite the failed talks, there remains significant international pressure to resolve the conflict diplomatically. The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) officially includes three provinces (Erbil, Dahuk, and Sulaymaniyah) protected by a security force (Peshmerga) independent from the Iraqi government.

On September 29, the central Iraqi government in Baghdad banned all international flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan until further notice, with an exception for humanitarian and emergency flights (pre-approved by Baghdad).

Advice

Travelers are advised to postpone any trips to Iraqi Kurdistan (KRI) until the situation stabilizes. In spite of the current situation, the KRI remains one of the safest areas for foreign travelers in Iraq, though the situation should be closely monitored via local staff, local media, and in-country security specialists.

The security environment in Iraq remains complex. Islamic State (IS) still enjoys freedom of action throughout much of northern and western Iraq and criminal gangs, who often kidnap victims, operate throughout the country. Tribal militias, not answering to the central security apparatus, also exercise effective control over their own territories. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to all travel.

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