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US Working to Defuse Tensions in Kirkuk | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and his Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi are seen during a welcoming ceremony in Baghdad, Iraq, January 7, 2017. Hakan Goktepe/Prime Minister’s Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

Ankara, Washington, Irbil – With the end of the 48-hour deadline given by Baghdad for the Kurdish Peshmerga forces to withdraw from the oil fields in Kirkuk, Washington decided to intervene with an attempt to defuse a possible confrontation between the two sides.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday that Washington is working to reduce tensions between Iraqi federal and Kurdish forces, urging them to remain focused on the war against militants, according to AFP.

The US meddling came as Commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Major General Qassem Soleimani visited on Saturday the tomb of former Iraqi president and PUK leader Jalal Talabani in Sulaimani.

Meanwhile, Kurdish sources confirmed on Saturday that US-led coalition jets have increased their hovering above Kirkuk.

Separately, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s scheduled visit to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, where he was expected to meet with his counterpart Haider al-Abadi this weekend was postponed.

The presidency of the Turkish government announced the postponement but did not offer any justifications for the decision.

Both men were expected to discuss the latest developments related to the Kurdistan referendum on independence and the joint measures for retaliating against the vote.

The two sides were also planning to tackle the presence of the Turkish troops in the Bashiqa military camp, near the city of Mosul.

Last week, the Turkish prime minister spoke about the presence of his country’s troops in the camp, a matter that had created tension between Ankara and Baghdad.

He said that Turkey’s Bashiqa military camp in Iraq should not be a matter of debate between the two countries, especially that both are fighting ISIS.

Diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday that one of the reasons behind the postponement of the visit could be the failure to reach an agreement between Ankara and Baghdad in this regard.