Coalition says it incorrectly announced Baghdad, Kurd cease-fire

The spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition said he incorrectly announced a cease-fire had been reached between the Iraqi central government and the country's Kurdish minority.

While talks are ongoing and clashes have temporarily ceased, an official cease-fire had not been declared Friday, Col. Ryan Dillon said, despite his earlier statement.

Escalating tensions between Irbil and Baghdad erupted into violence earlier this month following a controversial referendum on independence held by the Kurds in September.

Clashes broke out when federal forces retook the disputed city of Kirkuk and other areas outside the autonomous Kurdish region that the Kurds had seized from the Islamic State group. The terrorist group conquered those areas after sweeping across the country in 2014. Most of the Kurdish forces withdrew without a fight, but reports of low-level clashes continued and tensions remained.

The Kurdish referendum on support for independence was held in September in the three provinces that make up the Kurds' autonomous zone, as well as in a string of territories claimed by Baghdad, but at the time controlled by Kurdish forces.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi demanded the annulment of the vote and the transfer of border control and other infrastructure to federal forces.

Kurdish officials offered this week to "freeze" the results of the vote, but Abadi rejected the offer Thursday.

Also Thursday, Iraq announced an offensive to retake the last major pocket of Islamic State-held territory, on the western edge of the sprawling Anbar province. Abadi said in a statement that the operation aims to liberate the towns of Qaim and Rawa, adding that the militants must choose "death or surrender."

Coalition officials have warned that tensions between Baghdad and Irbil are "distracting" from the fight against Islamic State. Dillon said Thursday referendum fallout was making it difficult to move military equipment across Iraq and into Syria.


UPDATES:

8:44 a.m.: This article has been updated to say the coalition incorrectly announced the cease-fire.

This story was originally posted at 6:05 a.m.

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