Iraqi Kurds Withdraw to June 2014 Lines as Offensive Continues

"Otherwise, these agreements and contracts are illegal and non-binding to the Iraqi state and give the government and the ministry the right to take legal action in domestic and global courts to protect Iraq's national wealth", it added.

The United Nations on Thursday expressed concern about reports of the forced displacement of Kurds from Kirkuk, which was recently taken over by Iraqi forces following a Kurdish indepedence referundum.

The news comes just weeks after a Kurdish referendum on independence in which Kurds backed secessionIraqi officials have issued an arrest warrant for Kurdish Vice President Kosrat Rasul after the politician described troops in Kirkuk as invaders.

The independence of Kurdistan is opposed not only by the Iraqi central government, but also by most other countries as it would threaten the integrity of Iraq and undermine the fight against IS militants. On Wednesday, Iraq's army issued a statement saying its forces had completed retaking the areas the Kurdish forces had left.

KRG's Peshmerga forces abandoned the long-held areas a day after surrendering the city of Kirkuk.

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Abadi spoke on Tuesday, saying he considered the September 25 referendum, in which Kurds voted overwhelmingly for independence despite Baghdad's opposition, "a thing of the past".

With the referendum having given Abadi a political opening to regain disputed territory and tilt the balance of power in his favour, the KRG cabinet on Thursday welcomed his call for talks to resolve the crisis.

KRG Peshmerga forces deployed into Kirkuk in 2014 when Iraqi government forces fell apart in the face of a lightning offensive by Islamic State insurgents, preventing the oilfields from falling into jihadist hands.

  • Rogelio Becker