Iran reported to have shut crossing with Kurdish region; subsequently denied by Iran

Reports on October 15 claimed that the Iranian authorities shut a main border crossing with the Kurdish region amid increased tensions.

Ali Tawfiq, director of the terminal in Sulaimaniyah province reported that the main border crossing at Bashmaq had been closed by the Iranian authorities; he added that no reason has been cited for the Iranian move.

Iran has three main official crossings with the Kurdish region; Haji Omaran in Erbil Province and Parwezkhan, and Bashmaq in Sulaymaniyah province.

Reports later on October 15 claimed that Iran’s Foreign Ministry subsequently denied reports that Tehran had closed its border crossings with the Kurdish region.

(Source: GardaWorld)

By John Lee.

Saudi Arabian budget airline Flynas is reported to be planning to start services to several Iraqi cities in the coming weeks.

If the plan goes ahead, it would be the first service between the two countries since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.

(Source: Middle East Eye)

Iraq has sent an official request to both Turkey and Iran to close all border posts with the Kurdistan Region until the latter hands them over to the federal government in Baghdad.

The Foreign Ministry submitted an official memorandum to the embassies of Turkey and Iran in Baghdad a week ago that included a formal request for the governments of the two countries to deal with the federal government in Baghdad exclusively with regard to border crossings and the closure of all crossings with the Kurdistan Region,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Mahjoub said in a statement posted on Facebook on October 7.

The statement said that Baghdad also urged Ankara and Tehran to suspend all commercial transactions with Kurdistan, especially those related to the export of oil.

It added that Baghdad cooperates with the Turkish and Iranian sides “to enforce the constitution and the law” that the two countries should deal exclusively with the federal authorities “in accordance with the principles of good neighbourliness and respect for Iraqi sovereignty”.

A separate statement by the Iranian Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Brig-Gen Masoud Jazayeri has said Iran is in the process of tightening control on its border with Iraqi Kurdistan at the request of Iraq’s central government.

At the request of the legal government of Iraq, Iran will impose more control on its joint borders with the Iraqi Kurdistan region,” Jazayeri was quoted as saying by the conservative Mehr news agency on October 7.

(Source: GardaWorld)

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Locals in Anbar celebrated when an important Iraqi-Jordanian border crossing was recently reopened. But the drivers who use it say many areas are still too dangerous to pass through.

When it was announced at the end of August that the Turaibil [Terbil] border crossing between Jordan and Iraq would reopen, there were celebrations. The border point, which facilitates trade between the two countries, was closed in late 2014 because the extremist group known as the Islamic State, or IS, had taken control of the areas in Anbar province leading toward the crossing.

“Opening the Turaibil crossing is urgently needed,” Faleh al-Issawi, the deputy head of Anbar’s provincial council, told NIQASH. “Other provinces are slowly becoming more stable and secure again and we too are working to restore our economy and our commercial facilities. The time has come for Anbar to go back to what it was before.”

Anbar sits between three countries – Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia – and between four Iraqi provinces. Traders must cross Anbar and locals know they could be exploiting that business. The re-opening of Turaibil has them hoping they will be able to.

On the Jordanian side of the border, everything was apparently ready for Turaibil to re-open. But the Iraqis haven’t been so fast. Most bridges and rest stops on the way there have been destroyed in recent fighting in the province and some areas that the road passes through are still dangerous.

Al-Issawi explains that they have a plan for this. Trucks will be escorted by security forces once they cross into Iraq, right up until they reach another completely secure area. The truck drivers won’t pass through the cities of Ramadi or Fallujah, both of which had been under control of the IS group, before heading to Baghdad or southern and northern provinces directly.

By John Lee.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has reportedly filed a complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) following Baghdad’s decision to close the region’s airspace to international traffic.

The closure came after Kurdish authorities refused to hand over control of the airports to the central government, following last week’s referendum on Kurdish independence.

According to The National newspaper, the complaint to the ICAO claims that the air embargo was preventing aid from getting to displaced people.

(Source: ch-aviation)

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqi Kurdish Politicians Talk About Post-Referendum Threats And Demands

While many uncertainties remain about Iraqi Kurdistan’s referendum on independence, there is one thing that seems clear to the people on the streets: On the day, the semi-autonomous region felt united in a way that it has not been for a long time.

Part of the reason Iraqi Kurdistan has remained an oasis of relative calm and security, while the rest of Iraq fell apart during the recent security crisis caused by the extremist group known as the Islamic State and earlier, is that the Kurdish people have always considered their ethnicity more important than the religious sect they belong to.

Ethnicity has trumped religion in their case and, despite infighting, has tended to unite locals in this area, with the long-term goal being to form their own nation.

In many other situations recently, the Kurdish have been divided – often between the two zones that basically make up the semi-autonomous northern region, which are run by the two major political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK.

Up until the very last minute some of the region’s political parties remained opposed to the referendum. The KDP, the PUK and the Kurdistan Islamic Union had supported the referendum while the Change movement, also known as Goran, and the Islamic Group of Kurdistan wanted it postponed.

Just one day before the referendum though, when it became clear it was going ahead, the Islamic Group of Kurdistan relented and senior members said they would be voting “yes” in the poll.

Even the Change movement, a long-time opposition group in the region that formed on an anti-corruption platform, told members to follow their own consciences. Then the movement also told members they should vote, and that they should vote “yes”.

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Kirkuk’s Kurdish Governor: If Baghdad Blockades Us, ‘We Will Manage’

In an interview, the controversial governor of Kirkuk, Najmuddin Karim, talks about Baghdad’s attempts to fire him, military tensions and what happens if Baghdad stops sending money.

On September 14, the Iraqi parliament voted to dismiss the governor of Kirkuk from his post. The decision came after the governor, Najmuddin Karim, said that the Kirkuk area would also take part in the Kurdish referendum on independence held this week, on Monday.

The Kurdish minority in Iraq want their region to secede from the rest of Iraq and to begin to start a new nation; they already have their own government, military, and borders.

The decision on Karim’s position was made in the Iraqi parliament even though Kurdish MPs boycotted the vote. Karim rejected the dismissal as did the political party he belongs to, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, and the Iraqi Kurdish government, which controls the semi-autonomous northern region.

The Kirkuk provincial council also supported the governor. However Arab and Turkmen members of the council who represent a significant proportion of Kirkuk’s population boycotted the session.

Kirkuk is one of Iraq’s most controversial “disputed areas” – that is, an area that the Iraqi government says belongs to Iraq but which the Kurdish believe should be part of their region. Although the Iraqi Kurdish military control the district, the population includes significant numbers of Arabs and Turkmen too, and this is why the city is often referred to as a potential flashpoint for ethnic conflict.

Karim spoke to NIQASH about the Kurdish referendum on independence as well as his dismissal and its ramifications for his authority in Kirkuk in the future.

NIQASH: There were a number of different options presented to the Kurdish leadership along with requests to postpone the referendum, but none of them seemed to be acceptable. Why?

Najmuddin Karim: The alternative proposals were not concrete. When the Iraqi prime minister spoke about problems, he was talking about amending the Constitution, which isn’t possible. We would only have agreed to postpone the referendum on condition that a date for Kurdish independence was set. There is no doubt that Kirkuk has a Kurdish identity and that its fate is entwined with that of the Kurdish region.

By John Lee.

Direct international flights will be suspended to and from Erbil International Airport (pictured) starting from Friday evening, following a decision by the Iraqi cabinet and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, an airline official has told Xinhua.

The move follows the region’s vote for independence in Monday’s referendum.

Airlines including Qatar Airways, EgyptAir and Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines had already informed passengers that flights would be cancelled at the request of Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority.

Only domestic flights will be permitted, and all the already-booked tickets for international flights should be through Baghdad international airport.

Iraq’s Tourism Board also announced on the halt of domestic tourism movement to the Kurdish region starting from early next week.

(Sources: Xinhua, The Independent, Reuters)

(Picture credit: Makyol)

By John Lee.

Iran has reportedly closed its airspace to all flights originating in Iraqi Kurdistan.

It’s state-run IRNA news agency said on Sunday that the move followed a request from Baghdad.

In a separate development, an Iranian official has been quoted as saying that plans are in progress for direct flights between Erbil and the city of Urmia, in Iran’s Kurdistan province.

(Source: Financial Times)

(Image credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By John Lee.

An Iranian official has been quoted as saying that plans are in progress for direct flights between Erbil International Airport (pictured) and the city of Urmia, in Iran’s Kurdistan province.

Ahmad Montazami, the head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s office in Urmia, told Fars News Agency that the service could be started early next year.

He added that Urmia is an important destination for medical tourism.

In a separate development, Iran has reportedly closed its airspace to flights originating in Iraqi Kurdistan.

(Source: Rudaw)