Ending the Kurdish Civil War in Iraq


The Washington Agreement ended a four-year armed conflict between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Iraqi Kurdistan during the 1990s.

The Kurdish population of Iraq faced a renewed armed conflict with Baghdad almost immediately after the Gulf War ended in 1991. However, a no-fly zone over the area which was enforced by US and allied armed forces provided a considerable degree of protection to Iraqi Kurdistan and prevented Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from re-establishing control of the area. Elections held in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1992 resulted in a 50-50 split between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the formation of a unity administration to govern the de facto Kurdish state. Within two years, however, the coalition between the two rival parties (which had a history of violent competition dating back to 1975) collapsed and, on 1 May 1994, an armed conflict erupted over exclusive control of Iraqi Kurdistan, with the PDK allegedly being supported by the Iranian government and the KDP briefly allying itself with the Iraqi government.1 A key source of contention was control of the border with Turkey, which offered a major source of revenue to whomever administered it.2

In August 1995, the belligerents agreed to attend US-sponsored talks in Dublin, Ireland. The negotiations were marred by a resumption of fighting in Kurdistan and were quickly abandoned. A few months later, the Government of Iran mediated another round of talks, however they also failed to end the conflict. US efforts, given a renewed sense of urgency following the Iranian initiative, continued, with fresh talks taking place in November 1995 and April 1996. The Government of Turkey hosted yet another round of talks in 1996, resulting in the Ankara Declaration and the deployment of a short-lived Peace Monitoring Force (April-October 1997).3 The fighting resumed in October 1997, continuing at a significant scale despite further talks being held. In the first months of 1998, the Kurdish leaders began a bilateral peace process which entailed bi-monthly meetings alternately held in each other’s territory known as the Koya/Shaqlawa Process. These meetings included confidence-building measures and led to the formation of a joint committee to manage the newly introduced UN Oil for Food Programme.4 In July 1998, the US government invited the leaderships of both parties to Washington, DC, for talks mediated by a host of senior officials, including the Secretary of State. After over two weeks of negotiations, the parties signed the Washington Agreement on 17 September 1998, finally bringing an end to the conflict.5

1 Johannes Jüde. “Contesting borders? The formation of Iraqi Kurdistan’s de facto state.” International Affairs, Vol. 93, No. 4. (2017) p.856

2 Ibid. p.855

3 Karwan Salih Waisy. “The Roots of the Iraqi Kurdish Internal Rivalries, Conflicts and Peace Process 1964-2000.” American International Journal of Research in Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Vol. 10, No. 3. (2015) pp.226-7

4 Brigitte E. Hugh Perpetuating Peace: Context Versus Contents of the Power-Sharing Agreements

5 Alan Makovsky. “Kurdish Agreement Signals New U.S. Commitment.” The Washington Institute. (1998) Available at: https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/kurdish-agreement-signals-new-u.s.-commitment (Accessed 26/11/2020)

Start Year


End Year



Kurdish Region, Iraq

UN Regional Group


Type of Conflict

Horizontal (non-state) intrastate conflict

Type of Initiative

Mediation of a peace agreement

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The Government of the USA




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