ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdish Peshmerga along with Iraqi forces have agreed to reopen the main road connecting Zumar and Duhok on Tuesday, more than a year after its closure following clashes between the two groups in 2017.
The road, which is also known as the Zumar – Sihela route, has been closed since Oct. 2017 after Iraqi forces and Shia militias attacked and took over disputed territories, weeks after the Kurdistan Region held a referendum on independence which saw a majority favoring statehood.
Five months ago, Kurdish Peshmerga forces decided to unilaterally open the road to facilitate travel between the Duhok and Nineveh provinces, but the move was effectively meaningless as Iraqi forces kept their side of road closed.
“Last time, there was no bilateral cooperation between the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces, but now, both sides have agreed to reopen the road,” Newroz Mejid, Commander of the Zumar security directorate, told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday.
The decision comes as tribal leaders and residents repeatedly asked both sides to open the road, with the closure having been a great inconvenience to people in the area.
For people to travel from Zumar to Duhok Province, they had to employ Mosul Road, which coils take up to five hours. With the Zumar – Sihela road reopening, the trip would be cut down to only 45 minutes, Mejid said.
The Kurdish commander noted that the first step will be to open the road from 07:00 am until 07:00 pm every day, with emergency access overnight.
It took two days of meetings between Iraqi forces and Peshmerga forces for them to reach an agreement, Mejid added.
It was the only remaining closed road between areas under the administration of the federal government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
The Sihela Battle witnessed the most intense clashes between the Peshmerga and the Iraqi forces supported by Shia militias. Iraqi security forces pushed hard to advance to the Turkish border, but the Peshmerga forces, along with Asayish (Security) forces, held their ground, causing a relative standstill for the next couple of years. Casualties were reported on both sides at the time.
Editing by Nadia Riva