By Alaa Al-Huwaijel
BAGHDAD, Oct 28 (KUNA) -- Iraqi government's rebuffing of all proposals to halt military offensive and engage in dialogue with Kurdistan is meant to gain much time to change realities on the ground before sitting on the negotiating table with Kurdish leaders, observers believe.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi on Thursday turned down a Kurdish proposal to halt fighting in Kurdistan region, freeze the outcome of the controversial Kurdistan Independence vote and start direct talks with the government based on Iraqi constitution.
"We will accept nothing but the annulment of the referendum and respect for the constitution," Abadi said in a statement released by his Baghdad office as he holds talks in neighboring Iran.
Emboldened by a series of surprise and swift military gains against the Kurdistan government, the federal government does not want to accept half solutions to the crisis.
On the contrary, Baghdad is trying to gain much time to seize control over more strategic areas and sites, such as the significantly important border crossing posts which have been controlled and administered by the Kurdistan government since 1990s.
Observers believe that Baghdad's insisting on its preconditions for dialogue: Kurdistan's annulment of the referendum and total abidance by the federal constitution.
They pointed out that the Iraqi government knew that such preconditions are not acceptable by Kurdistan government but it tries to gain time to achieve its goals on the ground.
"The Iraqi forces would continue their advance to extend the state sovereignty on the Iraqi territories, especially on the border posts and oil fields," Iraqi lawmaker Jassem Jaafar told KUNA.
He indicated that the Iraqi forces' control of the disputed areas is in line with the state constitution and laws.
Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani has committed a grave mistake when he shrugged off all warnings and decided to go ahead with the controversial independence referendum on September 25, Jaafar told KUNA.
By this move, Barzani has initiated a crisis in the province and several others with federal government and other neighboring countries, he stated.
He laid it bare that the federal government would no longer deal with Barzani as the sole representative of the Kurdistan.
Future negotiations will be with a delegation including representatives of all Kurdish parties, particularly the Gorran Movement, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and the Kurdistan Islamic Group, which were against the referendum, he stressed.
He clarified the Iraqi government did not want to isolate Barzani, but rather to make sure that he would not be allowed to determine the future of the province alone.
Meanwhile, political analyst Samman Noah suggests that the government has emerged as victorious after the Kurdistan government's loss of nearly 51 percent of the areas, which were under its control in just a few days.
The victorious party has reached a juncture which cannot be exceeded and the other party has also reached a point after which is has nothing more to lose which may force the Kurds to fight until their last bullet as they have recently threated, Noah told KUNA.
In light of these developments, there is no alternative other than a US intervention to press both sides to sit on the negotiating table to discuss a compromising deal, which could help avoid the eruption of clashes that could end up with complete destruction of the province and Baghdad's loss of the international support in its war against extremists.
He, however, noted that the main hurdle obstructing the start of negotiations is Baghdad's desire to seize control over the strategic FeshKhabour crossing point on the Iraqi, Turkish and Syrian borders.
The federal government forces are just a few kilometers away from FeshKhabour, he said, adding that Baghdad's control of FeshKhabour, would open a direct commercial route with Turkey through which Iraq would be able to export oil and commodities without any interruption from the Kurdistan government which was controlling all crossing points with Turkey.
The loss of FeshKhabour would also deprive Kurdistan from a prime source of revenues from the customs duties and oil exports to Turkey, he said, stressing that Kurds would fight hardly to avoid such a scenario.
The loss of FeshKhabour would be the loss of the last card in the hands of Kurdistan which was used for decades to leverage Baghdad and Ankara to deal with it as the controller of the only commercial crossing point between the two countries whose trade exchange amounts to USD 12 billion, he said.
Nevertheless, he believes that if the US pressed the conflicting parties, they would agree on a deal that could allow Baghdad unimpeded access to the crossing point provided that it remains under the control of the Kurdistan province.
Since early last week, Iraqi federal troops and allied militia have retaken virtually all of the territory held by the Kurds outside their longstanding three-province autonomous region in the north.
There were clashes on Tuesday between government and Kurdish forces close to the frontier with Turkey as Baghdad made a push to reclaim control of key border crossings around the region. There has seen more than 30 combatants killed in the clashes between the government forces and Kurdish fighters so far.
In the meantime, the UN Security Council has "encouraged" Kurdish and Iraqi leaders to commit to a timetable for talks.
"Council members noted that the federal and regional governments have both expressed willingness to engage in dialogue," said France's Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre. He holds the council's presidency this month.
"We encourage them to expeditiously set a timetable to hold these discussions," Delattre told reporters after a closed-door meeting of the Security Council that heard a report on recent confrontations between Kurdish and Iraqi forces from the UN's Iraq envoy Jan Kubis.
Delattre said the Security Council was concerned about increased tensions and reported violence and called on all sides to end the use of force.
He believes the UN could facilitate talks, if asked, reiterating an earlier offer from Kubis. Talks would be a "pathway to de-escalation and a means to preserve Iraqi unity," said Delattre.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had earlier said he was "disappointed that the parties have been unable to reach an entirely peaceful resolution.
He revealed that in his recent meetings with Iraq's leader, "I encouraged Prime Minister Abadi to accept Irbil's overtures for talks on the basis of the Iraqi constitution." (end) ahh.ibi