ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The main highway connecting the Erbil and Kirkuk provinces will re-open next week, a Kurdish Peshmerga Commander, Kamal Kirkuki, said on Thursday.
The decision was made in Erbil with Masoud Barzani, former President of the Kurdistan Region, attending the meeting, Kirkuki told Kurdistan 24.
“In addition to the main road, other routes connecting Erbil to Kirkuk would also re-open,” he added.
Kirkuki, a Peshmerga Commander who was previously in charge of protecting the western fronts of Kirkuk against the Islamic State (IS), expressed his concerns with the four-month-long road closure.
Following the last year’s referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Region, Iraqi forces along with the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF) militia attacked and took over the oil-rich Kirkuk province and other disputed territories which were under the protection of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
The military takeover led to the displacement of 180,000 people to different cities of the Kurdistan Region.
While describing the incident as a “the betrayal of Oct. 16” and accusing some Kurdish leaders of collaborating with Baghdad to control Kirkuk, Kirkuki said that if the Peshmerga had not fought the Iraqi forces and PMF in Pirde (Altun Kupri) town, Erbil would have also been taken like Kirkuk.
Due to the clashes, the main road between Erbil and Kirkuk was closed, with people prevented from traveling between the two provinces.
“We did not want to fight, but we had no choice but to defend the people of the Kurdistan Region in Pirde. It is very unfortunate how what happened in Kirkuk and the incidents that followed affected everyone,” the Peshmerga Commander said.
He mentioned that opening the road in the coming week would require Peshmerga to be more cautious.
“We will open the road for people,” Kirkuki, who is also a member of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) politburo, affirmed.
“We first focused on repelling the attacks of those who wanted to advance on the capital of the Kurdistan Region. We defeated them and destroyed their US Abrams Tanks, which were used by the Hashd al-Shaabi militia,” he noted.
Since mid-October, people were using the Erbil – Taq Taq – Kirkuk road to travel between the two provinces.
Editing by Nadia Riva