Talabani returns and promises to bring peace to Kurdistan

THE KURDISH leader, Jalal Talabani, promised to restore peace in Iraqi Kurdistan yesterday by unilaterally withdrawing his fighters from the front line of the month-long conflict that has brought the 3.5 million Iraqi Kurds to the brink of civil war.

'This was some kind of madness, even I do not understand why it happened,' he said at his office in a mansion outside the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital of Arbil. He said his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) fighters would withdraw from positions in the mountains north of Arbil around the headquarters of his rivals in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Massoud Barzani.

About 100 prisoners held by the PUK would be released, propaganda attacks halted and PUK gunners brought down from rooftops in Arbil, he added. He said the PUK had abandoned its occupation of the Iraqi Kurdistan parliament, taken over when a land dispute on 1 May flared up into a serious inter-Kurdish conflit.

Mr Talabani's return to Kurdistan on Thursday after a long absence has already lowered tensions on roads and flashpoints. No fighting has been reported for more than 24 hours around Arbil, where the eastern territory controlled by the PUK and western part controlled by the KDP overlap.

But fighting was still reported around Penjwin between the PUK and Islamists supported from over the border by Iran. Mr Talabani accused Iran and Iraq of conspiring in recent meetings to destroy the Kurdish enclave, set up under Western protection after the Gulf war in 1991. 'If Iran continues to invade our country we will resist,' he said, accusing Iran of cross-border attacks, shelling and massing troops.

But Mr Talabani agreed the Kurds had been very destrutive on their own. About 60 of his men had been killed in the fighting and a similar number were killed on the other side, he said. Other estimates speak of 400 dead, including a number of massacres.

The fighting in Kurdistan was aggravated by Mr Talabani's absence, but he said he had not been able to get back safely. US helicopters attached to Operation Provide Comfort protecting the Kurds have not flown near Arbil since two were accidentally shot down in April. In the end, it was a Turkish helicopter that took Mr Talabani home.

It is unclear how quickly the two main Kurdish guerrilla armies can start working together again after the fighting. Most of the population voiced disgust with the internecine conflict. Mr Talabani said he was ready to accept Mr Barzani's proposal to bring forward elections due next year. This might produce one leader to replace the unwieldy power-sharing deal reached after the inconclusive elections of May 1992.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project