BAGHDAD - Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday offered an amnesty to some backers of a sweeping militant offensive, in an apparent attempt to undercut support for the insurgents.
“I announce the provision of an amnesty for all tribes and all people who were involved in actions against the state” but who now “return to their senses”, excluding those involved in killings, Maliki said in televised remarks. A major militant offensive, spearheaded by the militants from the Islamic State group, has overrun large areas of five provinces since June 9. raqi security forces folded under the weight of the initial onslaught, in some cases shedding uniforms and abandoning vehicles to flee. They are now performing better, but are still struggling to regain lost territory.
Nuri al-Maliki rejected an assertion by the country’s autonomous Kurdish region that its control of disputed territory is here to stay. “No one has the right to exploit the events that took place to impose a fait accompli, as happened in some of the actions of the Kurdistan region. This is rejected,” Maliki said in televised remarks.
He was responding to remarks by regional president Massud Barzani last week that there was no going back on Kurdish rule in the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk and other towns now defended by Kurdish fighters against militants.
Maliki said on Wednesday that he hoped to overcome the challenges blocking the formation of a new government, a day after the new parliament’s first session ended without agreement on top government posts.
“A state of weakness occurred but God willing in the next session (planned for next Tuesday) we will overcome it with cooperation and agreement and openness ...in choosing the individuals and the mechanisms that will result in a political process based on...democratic mechanisms,” said Maliki in his weekly televised address. Sunnis and Kurds abandoned the first meeting of the new parliament after Shias failed to nominate a candidate for prime minister. The Shia parties are deadlocked over Maliki’s ambitions for a third term, and who would replace him.
The new parliament adjourned Tuesday, with plans to meet one week later, if an agreement on posts was reached. Maliki also offered an amnesty to tribes who fought the government, but excluded those who had “killed and shed blood.”
The United States, United Nations, Iran and Iraq’s own Shia clergy have pushed hard for politicians to come up with an inclusive government to save the country after the insurgents seized large stretches of territory north and west of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, dozens of families who fled a Shia Turkmen town in northern Iraq overrun by the militants want to move south but are stuck in limbo between the Kurdish authorities and insurgents.
The families said they initially fled Tal Afar, part of a swathe of territory across five provinces which fell to the fighters in an offensive that began June 9, for the nearby town of Sinjar.
They then moved to camps on the outskirts of Iraq’s autonomous three-province Kurdish region, they told AFP. But land routes to the Shia-dominated south, which is markedly more stable than the conflict-hit north and west, are controlled by militants led by the Islamic State (IS) group. And Kurdish authorities have blocked those fleeing the conflict in northern Iraq from entering the autonomous region without a resident sponsor.
They have also barred them from the regional capital Arbil entirely, meaning they cannot get to the airport to fly south. “When we arrived at the camp, they provided us with food, but we do not want to live in a camp,” said Murtada Qassem, who fled Tal Afar to Sinjar, and then later to a camp bordering the Kurdish region.