Fuad Masoum calls for direct talks between Baghdad and Erbil

<p style="text-align: left;">The president of Iraq on Thursday, December 14, called for direct talks between Erbil and Baghdad to settle their long standing disputes on the basis of the constitution.

Tensions between Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, increased after the autonomous region held a vote on Kurdish independence in September that overwhelmingly backed secession from the rest of Iraq. The Iraqi government responded by halting all international flights in and out of Kurdistan and sending troops to retake disputed areas held by Kurdish forces outside of the autonomous region, leaving Erbil grappling with an economic and political crisis.

According to the National Iraqi president Fuad Masoum held talks with two of his deputies, Nouri Al Maliki and Ayad Allawi, in Baghdad on Thursday to discuss the political and security situation in the country.

The politicians debated Iraq&rsquo;s upcoming elections, the federal budget law and the situation in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, a statement said.

Kirkuk was one of the disputed areas retaken from Kurdish forces by Baghdad following the September referendum.

The three men called for &ldquo;an immediate dialogue between Baghdad&rsquo;s central government and the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) under the supervision of the Iraqi presidency and the support of the United Nations&rdquo; to restore relations between the two sides on the basis of the Iraqi constitution, the statement said.

News Code 3533

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