ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The road between Sihela and Sinjar (Shingal) reopened on Saturday, more than a year after the attack by Iraqi forces and Shia militias that pushed Kurdish Peshmerga from the area.
Located near the Syrian border, the road which also goes through the town of Rabia has been closed since Oct. 2017 after clashes between Peshmerga and Iraqi forces.
The skirmishes, which also occurred across other disputed territories such as Kirkuk, came weeks after the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence, a move that Baghdad fiercely opposed and retaliated with multiple punitive measures, including a ban on international travel from airports in the Kurdistan Region.
“We have been in talks with Baghdad for the past three months to reopen this road,” Ashti Kochar, the Kurdish head of security in charge of the western Tigris River areas, told Kurdistan 24 from the Sihela front line.
He mentioned that the Iraqi federal government agreed to reopen the road on Friday, but has yet to decide on the Zumar road.
Kochar noted that the recent visit of Masoud Barzani, the former President of the Kurdistan Region and the current leader of the leading Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), to Baghdad had a substantial impact on reopening the Sihela – Shingal road.
The security official also explained that, as an initial step, the road will be opened to travelers from 7:00 in the morning until 6:00 in the evening.
Before its closure, it was one of the main and most direct roads that people of Shingal and surrounding towns had long preferred using to travel to and from the Kurdistan Region’s Duhok Province.
On Friday, an independent organization that provides political analysis and makes recommendations on preventing war in areas of conflict across the globe said in a new report that Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and mediators should now intensify efforts to solve the seemingly intractable national dispute of the disputed territories.
The Brussels-based think tank wrote, "The new administrations in Baghdad and Erbil and the appointment of a new special representative of the UN secretary-general for Iraq provide an opening to move boldly on one of Iraq’s most enduring and divisive issues: the status of disputed territories and the determination of the Kurdish region’s borders."
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Additional reporting by Islam Yusuf)