BAGHDAD — Iraqi Kurdish media accused Iran on Sunday of closing most of its border with the Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region as its leaders met to discuss rocky relations with Baghdad, to pressure them into making concessions to the central government.
Rudaw news agency, quoting the Kurdish region’s customs chief, Samal Abdulrahman, said Iran closed all three official crossings with the autonomous region, while leaving one semi-official crossing open. The Kurdish police commander at the Bashmakh crossing, Awet Jamal, confirmed to The Associated Press his crossing has been closed.
It came as Iraq’s divided Kurdish leadership met in Dokan to break a weeks-long stalemate with Baghdad over the administration of the country’s oil-rich Kirkuk region, as well as to demand recognition of a symbolic vote for independence held last month.
Baghdad has been turning the screws on the Kurdish region since the September referendum to disavow the vote and accept shared administration over Kirkuk.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said there has been no change to the status of the border. But Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Iran was honouring Baghdad’s request to close the crossings. Iran and neighbouring Turkey also denounced the Kurdish referendum.
The conference in Dokan, attended by Kurdish regional president Masoud Barzani, leaders of the rival PUK party and Iraqi President Fuad Masum, himself a Kurd, produced a statement saying the rivals would present a unified front in negotiations with Baghdad and reject demands to annul the referendum result.
They agreed to deliver a message to Prime Minister Haidar Abadi in Baghdad offering to share administration over parts of Kirkuk with Kurdish elements of Iraq’s formal army, according to Sarteep Jawhar, a Kurdish journalist close to the PUK. They refused, however, to share administration with the state-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Front militias, which are close to Iran.