Kurds claim control of disputed oilfields in Iraq
11 July 2014, 20:25 -- Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region claimed control of disputed northern oilfields Friday, a move sharply condemned by Baghdad as relations between the two sides hit a new low, Reuters reports. 'Members of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Kirkuk Oil Protection Forces moved to secure the oilfields of Bai Hassan and the Makhmour area,' the region's government said in a statement.
Iraq confirms termination of Kurdish Ministers in gov't - media
Foreign Minister of Iraq, Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd by nationality, has confirmed that the Kurdish political bloc had ceased its activities in the government in response to accusations by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Reuters reports Friday. 'We've ceased our activities in the government,' said Zebari, stating that Kurdish Ministers have ceased their work in his ministry, as well as in the ministries of migration, health and the office of the Prime Minister.
Earlier, media reported that Nouri al-Maliki had accused the Kurdish authorities of having links with militants from the Islamic State grouping (IS), and of the fact that the capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan – the city of Erbil – had become a base of the IS on the territory of the Arab state. As Deputy Prime Minister of Kurdistan Rosh Nuri al-Shawish has stated to journalists, 'such statements are made in order to hide the committed mistakes and shift the blame to other shoulders. We announce our boycott of the cabinet meetings.'
In turn, head of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani said that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki 'went into hysterics' and was not able to lead the country out of the crisis. According to Barzani, the Prime Minister of the Arab state 'has lost his balance,' and therefore he must 'apologize to the Iraqi people and quit his post.'
In recent months, tensions between the leadership of the Kurdish autonomy and the central government of Iraq were growing because of the Kurds' decision to export oil without Baghdad's sanction. In early July, head of the autonomous region Masoud Barzani called on the parliament of the autonomous region to determine the date of a referendum on independence from Iraq. Earlier, Barzani accused Baghdad of a disastrous policy that had allowed militants of the Islamic State grouping to come close to the borders of the autonomy, and stressed that the Kurds were not obliged to pay for his political mistakes and would not do it.
Iraq battled a militant assault on key city Ramadi Friday while accusing the Kurds of seizing oil fields, further dashing hopes of political unity to save the country from falling apart. The militant push to take Anbar's provincial capital comes two days before a planned parliamentary session meant to revive flagging efforts to replace the caretaker government in power since April elections.
Sunni militants have captured areas west of Ramadi since the fighting began Thursday afternoon, killing 11 police, bombing a police station and taking control of another, officials said.One of the sources, a police lieutenant colonel, said the insurgents were attempting to 'storm Ramadi from the western side'.The fall of the city, where anti-government fighters have held shifting areas this year, would be a major advance for the jihadist-led militants, who have overrun large areas of five provinces, including parts of Anbar, since June 9.
It could increase the threat to the capital by solidifying militant positions in Anbar and breaking the isolation of insurgent-held Fallujah, which is only 60 kilometres (37 miles) west of Iraqi capital.
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