Iran denies closing main border crossing with northern Iraq

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL
Published 15.10.2017 13:11
Updated 15.10.2017 16:50
Haj Omran border is seen, on the border between Iran and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Iraq, Oct. 3, 2017. (Reuters Photo)
Haj Omran border is seen, on the border between Iran and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Iraq, Oct. 3, 2017. (Reuters Photo)

Iranian foreign ministry denied Sunday reports claiming the country closed border crossing with northern Iraq, adding that there were no new developments.

Earlier, reports alleged Iran shut a Bashmagh border crossing with northern Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) amid tension over last month's illegitimate independence referendum.

"Iranian authorities have closed the crossing near al-Sulaimaniyah province," Ali Tawfiq, director of the terminal, was quoted as saying by Anadolu Agency (AA).

He said no reason has been cited for the Iranian move.

"The closure has halted the movement of goods and people into and from the Kurdish region," Tawfiq added.

Iran's Tasnim news agency said the decision to close the border crossing was made, "considering the developments in Iraq's Kurdistan."

Iran has three main crossings with the Kurdish region; Haji Omaran (in Irbil province), Parwezkhan, and Bashmagh.

Meanwhile, commander of foreign operations for Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Major General Qassem Soleimani has arrived in Iraq's Kurdistan region Sunday for talks about the escalating crisis between the KRG and the Iraqi government following the illegitimate independence referendum.

The KRG, led by Masoud Barzani, held a controversial independence referendum Sept. 25, despite widespread criticism from regional powers, the Iraqi central government, the U.S., the U.K. and the EU. Leaders who oppose the KRG referendum argue that Iraq's territorial integrity must be protected and that focus should be honed on the fight against Daesh, arguing that an Iraqi Kurdistan would compromise the stability of a unified Iraq and bring further chaos and conflict to a region already reeling from instability, civil war and political turmoil. The only country supporting the KRG vote has been Israel.

Neighboring Iran and Turkey back Iraq's uncompromising stance and repeatedly expressed commitment to Iraq's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Baghdad had asked foreign countries to stop direct flights to international airports in Irbil and Sulaymaniyah, both in KRG territory. So far, Iran has been the only country to declare such an air embargo, halting direct flights to Kurdistan.

Barzani's opponents have accused him of seeking to give himself increased powers through the vote, saying he should have accepted a U.N.-backed plan to postpone the referendum in favor of negotiations with Baghdad.

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