Oct 212017
 
Tillerson Promotes Closer Iraq-Saudi Ties

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday promoted improving ties between Saudi Arabia and Iraq as a way to counter Iran’s growing military assertiveness in the region.Tillerson, participating in the initial meeting of the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Committee in Riyadh, told Saudi King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that their improving links showed “great potential.” He cited the August reopening of a major border crossing between the two countries and the resumption of direct flights between Baghdad and Riyadh.“Both represent the beginning of what we hope will be a series of even more tangible actions to improve relations and strengthen cooperation on a host of issues,” Tillerson said. “Your growing relationship between the kingdom and Iraq is vital to bolstering our collective security and prosperity and we take great interest in it.”The top U.S. diplomat said the United States is “grateful for this progress and urge you to expand this vital relationship for the stability of the region. The United States stands ready to support continued cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Iraq and we congratulate you.”Salman said, “We are facing in our region serious challenges in the form of extremism, terrorism as well as attempts to destabilize our countries. These attempts require our full attention. … We reaffirm our support for the unity and stability of our brother country of Iraq.”Abadi voiced his approval of “the thriving relations between our two brotherly countries. We are open and we want to move away from the past. The region [Read More…]

Oct 132017
 

KIRKUK: Iraqi forces Friday retook positions controlled by Kurdish peshmerga fighters since 2014 in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk amid a bitter row with the Kurds over a vote for independence last month. A senior Kurdish official said thousands of heavily armed fighters had been deployed to defend themselves “at any cost” against the Iraqi operation and called for international intervention. Ethnically divided but historically Kurdish-majority Kirkuk is one of several regions that peshmerga fighters took over from the Iraqi army in 2014 when Islamic State (IS) group swept through much of northern and western Iraq. Iraq forces in fierce Kirkuk clashes with IS Baghdad is bitterly opposed to Kurdish ambitions to incorporate the oil-rich province in its autonomous region in the north and has voiced determination to take it back. The Iraqi army and the peshmerga have been key allies of the US-led coalition in its fights against IS and the threat of armed clashes between them poses a major challenge for Western government. “The Iraqi armed forces are advancing to retake their military positions that were taken over during the events of June 2014,” an army general told AFP, asking not to be identified. Speaking from an area south of the provincial capital Kirkuk, the general said federal troops had retaken “Base 102” west of the city after peshmerga fighters withdrew during the night without a fight. Islamic State attack on Kurdish base in Iraq kills two The peshmerga’s Kirkuk commander, Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa, said his forces had withdrawn [Read More…]

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