Iran’s two border crossings with Iraqi Kurdistan region have resumed their operations following an announcement by the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), the director general of the Interior Ministry’s border affairs department said.
Shahriar Heidari said that according to the interior minister, the Parviz Khan border crossing in Iran’s Kermanshah province and the Haj Omran (Tamarchin) border crossing in Iran’s West Azerbaijan reopened on Tuesday.
He said the reopening of the borders came after an announcement by the SNSC and the resumption of activities of diplomatic and security organizations in the districts.
Iran shut its common frontier with the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan Region at the request of Baghdad after the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a referendum to secede from the Arab country in September.
People in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq voted for independence on September 25 in a controversial referendum, amid rising tensions and international opposition.
The referendum set off a chain of events, culminating in a military confrontation between Erbil and Baghdad.
Iraqi government forces launched a major operation in Kirkuk on October 16 and took control of its oil fields and a strategic military base without any armed clashes.
By Kamal Chomani for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Trying to jump-start discussions with Iraq’s central government, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil recently announced it will respect the Iraqi Federal Court’s ecision that the KRG independence referendum was unconstitutional. But Baghdad has amplified its demands for opening a dialogue, which makes negotiations unlikely to happen anytime soon.
The Kurdish independence referendum, which voters overwhelmingly approved in September, greatly escalated problems between Baghdad and the KRG. However, both sides have called for negotiations to resolve the issues based on the Iraqi Constitution.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said Baghdad is continuing to work toward putting into effect some articles of the constitution that have never been implemented and would benefit the Kurds, while at the same time returning federal sovereignty to all areas of Iraq.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson touched on the subject this week during a speech at the Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum in Washington DC, saying the United States will help officials implement the Iraqi Constitution completely.
“We have said we’ll stand with the Kurds to support them in the full implementation of the Iraqi Constitution … which, when it is fully implemented, will address a number of grievances that the Kurdish people have had for some time and we hope will lead to that unified Iraq,” Tillerson said at the Dec. 12 meeting.
An Iraqi parliamentary source told Al-Monitor, on condition of anonymity, Baghdad’s five recent conditions for opening negotiations.
The escalating tensions between Baghdad and Erbil have triggered an unprecedented upsurge in applications from wealthy Iraqi nationals for second citizenship programs.
Data collected by Savory & Partners, one of the largest companies in the Middle East that provides citizenship-by-investment programs, shows that compared to the same quarter last year, interest has increased by 300 percent, while applications processed are more than 42 percent higher than last year.
Company founder and CEO Jeremy Savory (pictured) told Iraq Business News:
“The immediate days following the Kurdistan referendum saw a remarkable spike in the number of applicants from Iraq, not only from Kurdish Iraqis, but from all parts of Iraq.
“In the past, the Iraqi passport was very strong … but over recent years the number of countries which have visa-free waivers has dropped considerably; hence, the need for second passport that enables people to travel to more countries visa free has seen a great spike.
“We have done Iraqi citizenship applications for Iraqi nationals for all the five Caribbean jurisdictions, all of which have been approved by the government. We have done European citizenship applications for Malta and Cyprus for Iraqi nationals, too.”
Iraqis constitute the company’s third largest client group after Syrians and Lebanese, with St. Kitts, Grenada and Dominica in the three most popular programs with an equal demand for all three programs. The company had only one Iraqi rejection in the last six years out of total of close to 800 passports, a rejection rate of less than 1 percent.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said on Tuesday that it would accept a Supreme Court decision prohibiting the region from seceding from Iraq.
It said in a statement:
“At the request of the Secretary General of the Iraqi Council of Ministers on November 5th, 2017, the Federal Supreme Court issued Decision No. 122 on November 6th, 2017, regarding the interpretation of the Article 1 of the Iraqi Constitution which states: ‘The Republic of Iraq is a federal, independent and fully sovereign state in which the system of government is parliamentary and democratic republic, and this Constitution is a guarantor of the unity of Iraq.’
“As we, in the Kurdistan Region, have always emphasized on finding solutions to disputes between the federal Authorities and the Kurdistan Region through constitutional and legal means, and based on our known position which welcomes all relevant initiatives, especially the initiatives by the Grand Ayatollah Ali Al- Sistani, Iraqi dignitaries and friendly countries to the Iraqi people regarding addressing disputes on the basis of the Constitution, we respect the interpretation of the Federal Supreme Court of the First Article of the Iraqi Constitution.
“We believe that this Decision must become a basis for starting an inclusive national dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad to resolve all disputes through implementation of all constitutional articles and in a way that guarantees all rights, authorities and status mentioned in the Constitution, since this is the only way to secure the unity of Iraq, as Article 1 stated.“
Tourism in Iraqi Kurdistan has reportedly been hard hit following Baghdad imposed punitive measures on the Kurdistan Region following the independence referendum.
Many restaurants and guesthouses in Erbil have had to lay off employees after international flights were banned and the borders temporarily closed.
According to Rudaw, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had planned to invest in modern infrastructure and build hundreds of new tourist attractions across the Region, spending an estimated $100 million over the coming years to revive and develop an industry which many believed would be profitable in the long-run.
Rudaw reports that the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) has called on all Iraqi banks to halt their operations in the Kurdistan Region indefinitely.
It says that any bank that disobeys will no longer receive foreign currency transfers from the central bank.
Banks have reportedly been given one week to inform Iraq’s financial regulator of what steps they have taken to halt their operations in the Kurdistan Region if they want to continue to trade foreign currencies with the Central Bank.
As Iraq and Kurdistan are faced with grave and dangerous circumistances, we are all obliged to act responsibily in order to prevent further violence and clashes between Iraqi and Peshmerga forces.
Attacks and confrontations between Iraqi and Peshmerga forces that started on October 16, 2017, especially today’s clashes, have caused damage to both sides and coud lead to a continuous bloodshed, inflicting pain and social unrest among different components of Iraqi society.
Certainly, continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life.
Therefore, in order to fulfill our responsibilites and obligations towards the people of Kurdistan and Iraq, we propose the following to the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi and world public opinion:
Immediate ceasefire and halt all military operations in the Kurdistan Region.
Freeze the results of referendum conducted in the Iraqi Kurdistan.
Start an open dialogue between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi Federal Government on the basis of the Consititution.
The Council of Ministers of the Kurdistan Regional Government held a meeting on Thursday to discuss the latest developments in the region.
Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani attended the meeting and discussed the situation in Kirkuk and other areas that witnessed tensions and clashes this week.
The Council of Ministers welcomed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s call for negotiations in order to address the issues between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi Federal Government, within the framework of the federal constitution, and based on partnership and consensus.
It also called on the international community to help the two sides to start and conduct the talks. The Council of Ministers reiterated that the Kurdistan Regional Government has always been ready for dialogue and negotiations with Baghdad.
In a statement after the meeting, the Council of Ministers said that history has proven that the will of the people of Kurdistan will not be shaken by military actions, and the issues of Iraq will not be solved militarily.
The Council of Ministers also instructed relevant authorities to provide assistance for the people from Kirkuk and Tuz Khormatu, who fled their homes due to the recent violence. The Council also thanked the people and KRG agencies for their outpouring support for the displaced.
The Council of Ministers of the Kurdistan Regional Government extended its condolences to the family and friends of member of Kurdistan Parliament, Shwan Qaladzayee, who lost his life in a car accident.