ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A senior Kurdish military commander on Friday blamed the Iraqi federal government for delaying the re-opening of the Zumar – Rabia road, which links the provinces of Duhok and Nineveh near the Syrian border.
The road was opened after the liberation of the area from the Islamic State (IS) in Oct. 2015 by Kurdish Peshmerga forces, but was closed in Oct. 2017 in the wake of events following the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence.
“The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has not cut off the road from the people of that region,” said Mansour Barzani, a senior commander of Peshmerga forces and son of former President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani during a press conference in the area on Friday.
He mentioned that the KRG has repeatedly expressed readiness to reopen the road, but Baghdad is refusing to do so, “and blames it on the Peshmerga forces.”
Over the past two months, the main roads between Erbil – Makhmour and Duhok – Mosul were reopened by Peshmerga and Iraqi forces after months of closure, but Erbil – Kirkuk, and Zumar – Rabia roads remain closed.
The Kurdish commander added, “We can unilaterally open the road from our side, but that would not change anything because people cannot go to the other side, and people from their side cannot pass to here” since Iraqi forces block passage.
Iraqi forces and Peshmerga, who fought side by side in the fight against IS, faced each other in fierce skirmishes late last year in the villages of Mahmoudiya, near Rabia, and Altun Kupri (Pirde), outside Erbil.
The clashes came a few weeks after Kurdistan Region's referendum, which saw overwhelming majority favoring statehood. Following the vote, Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias attacked and took over the oil-rich and ethnically-diverse province of Kirkuk, along with other disputed territories in Nineveh province.
Editing by John J. Catherine