Dialogue only way to solve Iraq dispute: Kurd PM

The premier of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region said Monday that dialogue, not force, holds the key to ending a crisis with Baghdad that has seen military reinforcements sent to disputed areas.

“I want to emphasise one point, which is that Iraq’s problems will not be addressed by force,” Nechirvan Barzani told a news conference in Arbil, capital of the autonomous region in northern Iraq.

“Iraq’s experiences prove that the country’s problems will only be addressed by dialogue,” he said.

Tensions have been running high in areas of northern Iraq that the Kurdish region wants to incorporate over the strong objections of Baghdad.

Parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi has been pushing to resolve the crisis, which he has warned could lead to civil war.

He has been holding talks since Wednesday with political leaders in Baghdad and Kurdistan, and announced that a “technical and military meeting” on the crisis was to be held on Monday in Baghdad.

Barzani said a high-level Kurdish delegation would travel to Baghdad on Tuesday with the aim of reaching an agreement, and expressed hope that Nuajifi’s efforts would yield results.

Kurdistan president Massud Barzani has said peshmerga clashed with Iraqi forces in the disputed town of Tuz Khurmatu on November 16.

He ordered them “to exercise restraint in the face of provocations, but also to be in a highest state of readiness to face any aggressive acts,” while Iraqi premier Nuri al-Maliki’s office later warned the peshmerga “not to change their positions or approach the (federal) armed forces.”

Baghdad and Arbil have subsequently traded accusations over sending reinforcements to disputed areas.

The unresolved row over territory poses the biggest threat to Iraq’s long-term stability, diplomats and officials say. Ties between the two sides are also marred by disputes over oil and power-sharing.