Members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria met Tuesday in Paris to draw up a more cohesive plan to fight the Sunni militant group, but one key partner was missing, the Kurds. The Kurdish military wing, also known as the peshmerga, was not invited to the summit but is fighting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, on the front lines in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), the ruling party in Iraqi Kurdistan, criticized the U.S.-led coalition for not inviting his men to the summit, claiming the peshmerga are the only forces stopping the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, from advancing on key cities in the country, such as the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
“The [Iraqi] federal government didn’t invite any representative from Kurdistan to the Paris meeting and have participated in this gathering alone,” said a statement released Tuesday by the KRG’s Department of Foreign Relations. “The Peshmerga are the only forces that have so far bravely battled the terrorists and driven them out of our territories."
Envoys from the central government in Iraq represented the country at the summit, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Since its formation, the U.S.-led coalition has consulted directly with the central government in Baghdad on the fight against ISIS in the country despite relying on the peshmerga to lead the fight against ISIS in the northern part of the country.
The Kurds and Baghdad have for more than a year disagreed on the disbursement of weapons and on battlefield strategy, especially when it comes to leadership on the front lines. The two have also argued over control of oil. The KRG is in control of a large portion of Iraq's oil fields and was hesitant to hand out export rights to the central government because it is struggling economically.
The exclusion from the Paris summit only further isolates the two parties and makes their collaboration with each other difficult , the KRG said Tuesday in the statement.
“We were expecting the central government of Iraq as well as international community to respect the Kurdistan region and the Peshmerga and value the region’s great efforts to protect more than 1.5 million refugees despite our limited facilities,” the statement said.