Deadly firefight highlights unresolved tensions over territorial disputes

Iraqi Army and Peshmerga forces clashed over a strategically important position near key energy assets.
Iraqi soldiers fight on the outskirts of Makhmour on March 25, 2016, during the war against the Islamic State militant group. (AZAD LASHKARI/Reuters)

SULAIMANIYA/ERBIL/BAGHDAD - Iraq's unresolved territorial disputes exploded into violence Sunday as federal Army forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fought a deadly gun battle over a strategically important position about 20 kilometers from the Khurmala Dome formation of the Kirkuk oil field.

The fighting ended quickly, with leaders on both sides calling for dialogue and restraint. But the incident provided a stark reminder of the volatile mistrust that remains between Baghdad and Erbil, even in an era when they are trying to cooperate on a range of security, economic, and oil issues.

"Political leaders intervened and contained the situation," said a senior Interior Ministry official. "It is quiet and under control.... We don't think there will be any escalation of the situation, as both Baghdad and Erbil are not ready for that."

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Ministry of Peshmerga released a statement Monday that struck a conciliatory tone.

"We are extending our deepest condolences to the families of the victims, and wish speedy recovery to the ones injured," the statement said. "We reiterate our commitment to working with the federal government to achieve ever-lasting security and stability across Iraq."

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