0624 GMT July 23, 2019
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central government in Baghdad are at loggerheads since the Kurdish referendum held last month in northern Iraq, Reuters reported.
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters rejected a warning from Iraqi government to withdraw from a strategic junction south of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
The position controls access to an airbase and some of the oilfields located in the region of Kirkuk. The city and its immediate surroundings, including the oilfields, are under Kurdish control.
There were no clashes 14 hours after the deadline, but a resident said dozens of young Kurds had taken up arms and were deployed in the streets around Kirkuk with machine guns as the news of the warning spread.
Kurdish authorities said on Friday they had sent thousands more troops to Kirkuk to confront Iraqi “threats.”
Tehran: Border is open
Also on Sunday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry denied reports that Tehran had closed a border crossing with northern Iraq in response to the Kurdistan referendum, ISNA reported.
“As we announced earlier, we blocked our airspace to the Kurdish region on a request from the central government of Iraq, and as far as I know, nothing new has happened in this area,” ISNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi as saying.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has also repeatedly denied any plans to attack the Kurds.
Kirkuk, a city of more than one million people, lies just outside KRG territory, but Peshmerga forces were stationed there in 2014 when Iraqi security forces collapsed in the face of a Daesh onslaught.