The Latest: Turkey threatens to blockade Iraq’s Kurds
BAGHDAD (AP) — The Latest Iraq, where security forces have driven the Islamic State group from the northern town of Hawija (all times local):
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested that Turkey, Iran and Iraq are considering blockading Iraq’s Kurdish region by closing its airspace and borders after the Kurds’ voted for independence last week.
Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara on Thursday: “All airspace will be closed, flights have already been banned... Soon the borders will be closed too.”
Erdogan says the Iraqi Kurdish region’s leader, Masoud Barzani, who spearheaded the independence referendum, has endangered the security of the whole region.
Erdogan said: “We won’t allow our region and our country’s security to be placed in danger just because some people want to realize their childhood dream.”
More than 90 percent of Iraq’s Kurds voted for independence in the referendum, which was rejected as illegal by Iraq’s central government and its neighbors.
The U.S.-led coalition has welcomed Iraq’s “swift and decisive victory” against the Islamic State group in the northern town of Hawija.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had declared victory in Hawija earlier on Thursday during a visit to France. The town was among the last IS strongholds in Iraq after troops retook the northern city of Mosul earlier this year.
Lt. Gen. Paul Funk II, the commanding general of the coalition in Iraq, said “our Iraqi partners fought bravely and professionally against a brutal and determined enemy, safeguarding innocent civilians throughout the entire campaign.”
IS still maintains a presence in the far western part of Iraq’s sprawling Anbar province, where another U.S.-backed Iraqi offensive is underway.
Iraq’s prime minister says government forces have retaken the northern town of Hawija from Islamic State extremists, one of their last strongholds in Iraq.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in Paris on Thursday that “I want to announce the liberation of the city of Hawija today,” calling it a “victory not just of Iraq but of the whole world.”
He said that the fight against IS is now focused on the border zone with Syria.
Retaking Hawija was complicated by political wrangling among Iraq’s disparate security forces, because it is disputed between Baghdad and the northern Kurdish autonomous region.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is urging Kurdish peshmerga forces to keep working with Iraqi forces in the fight against Islamic State extremists despite tensions over the Kurds’ independence referendum.
Al-Abadi, speaking in Paris on Thursday, made an appeal to his compatriots saying “we don’t want armed confrontation” among Iraqi forces at a time when the government is ousting IS from its last strongholds.
Al-Abadi met Thursday with French President Emmanuel Macron, who offered mediation in the Kurdish tensions.
Iraq and its neighbors have rejected the Kurdish region’s independence referendum last month, and Baghdad has banned international flights and threatened to take control of the autonomous Kurdish region’s borders.
French President Emmanuel Macron is offering for France to mediate between the Iraqi government and Kurds seeking independence after a controversial referendum.
Macron made the offer after meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Paris on Thursday in wide-ranging talks about French support for the fight against the Islamic State group and rebuilding Iraqi’s economy.
Macron said France and others are worried about the situation of the Kurds after last month’s referendum, and said France supports the stability and territorial integrity of Iraq. He insisted on the importance of “national reconciliation and inclusive governance” that includes Kurds, “with whom France maintains close ties.”
Macron said dialogue “is the only path” and “France is ready . to contribute actively to mediation.”