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KRG Renews Call on PKK to Withdraw Troops from Yezidi City

Ongoing insecurity in Shingal has prohibited reconstruction efforts. Photo: Sartip Othman/Rudaw

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan Region’s President Masoud Barzani on Friday met with Yazidi leader Mir Tahsen Beg and a spiritual council delegation to discuss the reconstruction of Shingal and the presence of armed forces in the area. “There shouldn’t be other forces preventing the reconstruction, the activities of government institutions, and the movements of the Peshmerga forces while the [Kurdistan] Region’s official institutions and the Peshmerga forces are in Shingal region,” Barzani said, according to a statement issued by the presidency office after the meeting. “The Yazidis are indigenous Kurds, their religion and worship is in Kurdish. No person or party is entitled to impose other definitions on the Yazidis,” he added. Barzani has also said that he “has exerted all efforts to work for the return of life and reconstruction of the Shingal region through the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Baghdad and the international community.” He warned that the international community “is not ready to assist with the reconstruction of Shingal as long as illicit forces are in the region.” A day earlier, the KRG said that the continued presence of armed forces affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Shingal will lead to “conflict and tensions,” amid mounting pressure on the PKK to leave areas near the Syrian border. A readout from a KRG meeting on Thursday encouraged the PKK to retreat from Shingal where armed groups associated with the PKK have maintained a presence since late 2015 following the liberation of the city from ISIS. “As in the case of Kobane when it needed the support of the Peshmerga, and when the Peshmerga returned to the Kurdistan Region after their mission was completed there, we now thank the PKK for their assistance to the Kurdistan Region when it was needed, however they should now retreat and leave Shingal,” read the KRG statement. Shingal is officially outside of the Kurdistan Region territory and is part of Nineveh province where Mosul is the capital, but politically it has long been under Kurdish influence. Both the US and Iraqi governments have urged the PKK to leave the area and warned of further escalations. According to the KRG’s statement, in his meeting with Kurdish officials, Iraqi Prime Minster Haider al-Abadi “has reiterated that they do not support PKK remaining in Shingal since their presence there will lead to chaos and tensions in the region.” Both the PKK-affiliated forces and the Peshmerga troops close to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) played critical roles in the fight for Shingal in October 2015, but both have drawn criticism since for their rivalries within the war-scarred Yezidi community. More than 12,000 Kurdish forces pushed back ISIS militants and retook control of Shingal on November 12, 2015, supported by airstrikes from the US-led coalition. The People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish armed group in northern Syria, played a key role in the early days of the ISIS attack against the defenseless Yezidis in August 2014 by securing a route for thousands of civilians to the safety of Kurdish areas in Syria and Iraq. The PKK has so far rejected calls to leave Shingal and stated that their presence is at the request of local people. “We are here for the protection of Yezidis,” PKK commander Agid Kalari told Rudaw last year. “We will leave when there is no longer any danger,” he added. The US State Department said it is concerned about the situation in the Shingal area. The US is having discussions with the parties involved, acting spokesperson for the department Mark Toner told reporters on Wednesday. “We’re also having those discussions with those two groups because we recognize there’s tensions in the area. And again, we’ve said this many times, part of the success is once we’ve liberated an area from ISIS is how do we establish control, how do we establish local governance, how do we establish stability back in these regions? And that’s certainly something we’re focused on.”


(c) 2017 Rudaw

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