Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has rejected an attack plan against the positions of Kurdish Peshmerga forces amid ongoing tensions between the central government in Baghdad and Kurdish authorities over the September 25 referendum.
“We are not going to use our army to fight our people or to make war on our Kurdish citizens or others,” Abadi said in televised comments broadcast on state-run al-Iraqiya television network on Thursday.
He added, “Our duty is to preserve the unity of our country, to implement the constitution, and to protect citizens and national forces.”
The remarks came as an unnamed Kurdish military official said Peshmerga forces had closed the two main roads connecting the Kurdish cities of Erbil and Dohuk with the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, located some 400 kilometers north of the capital Baghdad, for several hours.
“The closure was prompted by fears of a possible attack by Iraqi forces on the disputed areas,” held by Kurdish forces but outside the Kurdish region, the official said.
Iraqi security sources said on Thursday that members of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) and the Interior Ministry's elite rapid response forces had deployed more forces near Peshmerga positions around Rashad village, situated some 65 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk.
Separately, a Turkish government spokesman says his country will gradually close border gates with Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in coordination with the central Iraqi government and neighboring Iran.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is expected to visit Baghdad on Sunday to meet with his Iraqi counterpart.
The Iraqi prime minister has already demanded the annulment of the Kurdish referendum results.
During a recent press conference in Paris, Abadi said his government did not seek confrontation with Iraqi Kurds but reiterated Baghdad’s position that the referendum was illegal, and that problems should be solved within the framework of Iraq’s constitution.