Iraqi government says Kurds must back country's 'unity' before talks

A boy rides a bicycle with the flag of Kurdistan in Tuz Khurmato, Iraq September 24, 2017. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi government has a series of conditions that the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) must meet before agreeing to hold talks on the crisis triggered by last month's independence referendum, a government spokesman said on Thursday.

The KRG must first "commit to Iraq's unity," the spokesman told Reuters, reacting to an offer for dialogue made Wednesday overnight by the Kurdish authorities.

"The local authorities in the (Kurdistan) region (..) must accept the sovereign authority of the federal government on (..) oil exports, security and border protection, including land and air entry points," he added.

The KRG must also "acknowledge the authority of the federal government over the so-called disputed regions," he said, in a reference to areas claimed by both the Kurds and Baghdad, including multi-ethnic oil-rich Kirkuk, in northern Iraq.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters moved into Kirkuk when the Iraqi army collapsed in the face of Islamic State in 2014, preventing the region's oil field from falling into the hands of the militants.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi last week suggested that Kirkuk be administered jointly, by the KRG and the Iraqi government, but under the authority of Baghdad.

"This is the basis for any dialogue requested by the local government of the region," the spokesman said.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writign by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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