x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Iraqi Kurdistan president visits forces in Kirkuk

Massud Barzani, the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, has inspected Kurdish peshmerga security forces in the disputed north Iraq province of Kirkuk.

KIRKUK, Iraq // Massud Barzani, the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, inspected Kurdish peshmerga security forces in the disputed north Iraq province of Kirkuk yesterday.

The visit may increase already-high tension with Baghdad, which has resulted in both sides deploying military reinforcements to areas in north Iraq.

"The president of the Kurdistan region of Iraq inspected peshmerga units located on the outskirts of Kirkuk" city, the capital of the province of the same name, said the peshmerga brigade commander, Maj Gen Shirko Rauf.

Mr Barzani emphasised to peshmerga forces "the importance of maintaining brotherhood and peace and serving all the (residents) of Kirkuk", Gen Rauf said.

The province is part of a swath of territory in northern Iraq that Kurdish leaders want to incorporate into their autonomous region, over Baghdad's objections.

The dispute over territory in this region is the biggest threat to the country's long-term stability, according to diplomats and officials. Ties between Baghdad and Kurdistan are also marred by disputes over oil and power sharing.