Kurdish forces seize disputed oilfield

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“Move comes as Kurds declare their politicians will boycott cabinet meetings, Kurdish foreign minister replaced.”
oil field

Iraq’s Kurdish region has claimed disputed northern oilfields in another blow to efforts to forge a united front against Islamic State (IS) led rebellion, as twin bombings killed 28 people.

The regional Kurdish government further raised the stakes on Friday by claiming control over disputed northern oil fields.

“Production at the new fields under (Kurdish) control will be used primarily to fill the shortage of refined products in the domestic market,” it said, adding that staff from the federal North Oil Company could either cooperate with new management or leave.

The move enraged the federal government, which labelled it “irresponsible behaviour which violates the constitution and the national wealth, and disregards the federal authorities and threatens national unity.”

The oilfield takeovers come after Kurdish peshmerga fighters moved into stretches of disputed northern areas vacated by Iraqi forces during the initial IS offensive last month, and regional president Massud Barzani has said they will stay there.

But in a sign of the major security challenges Kurdish forces face, a suicide bombing followed by a roadside bomb blast at the entrance to Kirkuk city, the province’s capital, killed 28 people and wounded 25 on Friday, health official Sabah Mohammad Amin said.

Many of those killed were people who had fled fighting in neighbouring provinces and were trying to reach safer areas in southern Iraq, a senior security official said.

Foreign minister replaced

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has meanwhile accused Barzani of exploiting the chaos created by the offensive led by IS, and accused the Kurdish region of harbouring rebels.

That claim drew derision from Barzani’s office, which shot back Thursday that Maliki has “become hysterical and has lost his balance”.

Saying Maliki had “destroyed the country,” it demanded he “apologise to the Iraqi people and step down”.

Friday’s development came just hours after Kurdish politicians pulled out of the central government. They were angered by Maliki who accused the KRG of harbouring “Sunni extremists” in Erbil, capital of the Kurdish region.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces moved into the disputed northern oil city of Kirkuk in June shortly after Iraqi government forces fled in the face of an offensive by Islamic State group fighters.

Maliki has accused the Kurds of exploiting the security crisis to push for statehood.

Zebari said Kurdish politicians would stop running their ministries, a day after they had announced a boycott of cabinet meetings.

Kurdish MPs would continue to attend parliament, elected on April 30, Zebari said, adding that the country risked falling apart if an inclusive government was not formed.

“The country is now divided literally into three states; Kurdish; a black state [the area controlled by the Islamic State group] and Baghdad,” he said.

The ministries affected include Zebari’s Foreign Ministry, the Trade Ministry, the Ministry of Migration, the Health Ministry and the deputy premiership, the Reuters news agency reported. (AL JAZEERA)

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