Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi orders a 24-hour suspension to military operations against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters stand at a crossing point in the Nineveh plain, northeast of Mosul. November 2016. File photo.
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters stand at a crossing point in the Nineveh plain, northeast of Mosul. November 2016. File photo. (AP)

Iraqi forces set a tight deadline Friday for Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) fighters to withdraw from an area on the Turkish border that is critical for oil exports.

The senior security source, asking not to be named, said KRG fighters were being given "a few hours" to pull out of the area around the Fishkhabur border post.

Clashes between the two sides had ceased "with only occasional exchanges of fire", said the source.

Iraqi forces on Thursday mounted a new assault on Kurdish fighters in the disputed oil-rich Zummar area of Nineveh province, triggering heavy artillery exchanges.

In an advance over dusty terrain with armoured vehicles, government forces recaptured villages close to the route of a strategic oil export pipeline linking the Kirkuk fields retaken from the Peshmerga forces earlier this month with the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

Iraqi PM orders 24-hour halt to military operations against KRG

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi ordered a 24-hour suspension to military operations against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq, his office said in a statement on Friday.

The truce is meant to allow the deployment of Iraqi authorities at border crossings held by Kurdish forces in agreement with the KRG, it said.

Confusion over "ceasefire" news between Iraqi forces and KRG

Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters reached an agreement on Friday to stop fighting in northern Iraq, the KRG said, although the status of any ceasefire remained unclear.

A spokesman in Baghdad for the US-led coalition against Daesh earlier said the deal covered all fronts in the conflict, which broke out after Kurdish authorities held an independence referendum last month in areas of northern Iraq.

However, he later told Reuters that the truce had not been officially agreed, while an Iraqi military spokesman declined to comment.

"The ceasefire is holding," Vahal Ali, the director of KRG President Masoud Barzani's media office, told Reuters. "Diplomatic efforts are underway to set a date for talks to start between Erbil and Baghdad."

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had called Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi urging for dialogue to start, the Iraqi central government said in a statement.

Fishkhabur border

The KRG shut down the pipeline during the 2014 sweep through northern and western Iraq by Daesh and built their own pipeline further north.

The Fishkhabur region, at the extreme edge of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan and where the Turkish, Iraqi and Syrian borders converge, is of strategic importance to both Baghdad and the Kurds of northern Iraq.

The Peshmerga forces have been defending the Zummar and Rabiya areas of Fishkhabur because they are used by Kurdish forces battling Daesh in Syria to smuggle out fuel products by tanker trucks to Turkey, according to the Iraqi source.

The UN Security Council on Thursday urged Iraq's government and Kurdish leaders to set a timetable for talks on ending their conflict triggered by a September 25 independence referendum held by the KRG in defiance of Baghdad.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies