Iraqi, Kurdish Forces Reach Ceasefire Deal

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The decision comes weeks after a Kurdish independence referendum championed by the veteran leader backfired and triggered a Iraqi military offensive that has pushed Kurdish peshmerga forces out of disputed areas claimed by the Kurds and the government in Baghdad.

Amid the grave consequences of a controversial independence referendum in the autonomous region of Kurdistan, its leader Masoud Barzani chose to step down from the presidency. Previously both presidential, as well as parliamentary elections, were slated for November 1, however, the chaos that broke out after the independence vote made authorities to postpone elections.

Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi demanded the annulment of the vote and the transfer of border control and other infrastructure to federal forces. He said "everything must be done to avoid fighting between the Iraqis, and that in line with Iraq's unity and constitution, a dialogue must be held between Erbil (the capital city of Kurdistan Region in Northern Iraq) and Baghdad taking into account the rights of Kurds and minorities".

He was elected president by the Kurdish parliament in 2005, and won almost 70 per cent of the vote in Kurdistan's first direct presidential election in 2009.

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The Kurdish president has come under mounting criticism over his handling of the 25 September referendum, when Kurds overwhelmingly backed independence. In 2013 he refused to abandon the post, though his mandate expired.

Mr Barzani said earlier this year that he did not intend to stand in the November election, but had been widely expected to seek another term.

French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated Saturday the necessity for the Iraqi government and the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan to hold talks to end the political crisis in the country peacefully, his office said on Sunday.

In a statement, Barzani stressed that despite stepping down as a president he would remain a fighter of the Peshmerga. The two sides held a first round of talks on Friday and Saturday.