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Iraqi PM says Kurdish independence vote now 'a thing of the past'

An Iraqi boy drags a Kurdish flag as Iraqi forces advance towards the centre of Kirkuk during an operation against Kurdish fighters on October 16, 2017.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (AFP)
Kurds voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence in a September referendum that Baghdad declared illegal

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday stated that the vote for Kurdish independence was now 'a thing of the past' and called for opening a dialogue with the Kurds in response to the escalating tensions with Iraqi forces over the highly controversial referendum,

The statement comes a day after Iraqi forces announced they seized control of the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk in a tense standoff with Kurdish fighters.

Long claimed by the Kurds as part of their historic territory, the province has emerged as the main flashpoint.

"Central authority must be imposed everywhere in Iraq," Abadi told a press conference. "I want to be fair with all citizens."

Earlier this week the leader stated that he was "not going... to make war on our Kurdish citizens" and had "given orders to armed forces to take over security in Kirkuk," according to state television.

Kurds voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence in the September poll.

Baghdad declared the referendum, which was held despite international opposition, illegal.

Crisis talks on Sunday made little headway in resolving the armed standoff between Kurdish and Iraqi forces in the province.

Both sides are key US allies in the battle against the jihadists, and the crisis has raised fears of fresh chaos just as Iraqi forces are on the verge of routing IS from the last territory it controls in the country.

The Kurds control the city of Kirkuk and three major oil fields in the province that produce some 250,000 barrels per day, accounting for 40 percent of Iraqi Kurdistan's oil exports.

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