Tehran Wants to Have Strong Relations with Erbil, KRG Representative to Iran Claims

The KRG Representative to Iran predicts that political relations between Erbil and Tehran will return to normal in due time. He added that recent protests in Iran further deteriorated relations between Iran and the Kurdistan Region, Kurdish media network Rudaw reports.

“[T]he statement made by Nechirvan Barzani assured Iran that the Kurds were not behind the protests,” Nazim Dabagh, KRG representative in Tehran, told Rudaw in an interview, referring to the prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Despite protests across Iran including in Kurdish areas after the New Year, the Iranian government reopened Parviz-Khan and Haji Omran border gates. Iranian MPs have expressed that Turkey benefited from the embargo on the Kurdistan Region by not closing its borders with Erbil, thus harming Iranian trade.

“…Turkey exploited the opportunity more carefully and actively and Iran felt this. But Iran always looks at these border gates from the perspective of trade and security. Turkey views these gates more from a trade perspective,” said Dabagh.

Iran reopened the Bashmakh gate three days after the referendum held on September 25, 2017. Some traders using Parviz-Khan and Haji Omran gates turned to Bashmakh. But oil traders had problems because some 250 to 400 oil tankers were crossing daily. Dabagh said Iran is helping Erbil and Baghdad to resolve outstanding issues.

“Iran is stressing that this improvement should be within the framework of the Iraqi constitution. Relevant ministries of the KRG and Baghdad will carry out the talks from now on, rather than government or party delegations. Iran wants to have strong relations with the KRG, although it appears as it’s supporting the Iraqi government more so,” added the KRG representative.

Prior to the referendum, Iran extended an invitation to Masoud Barzani, who was then president of the Kurdistan Region, to visit Tehran. Barzani turned down the invitation. Barzani has had several invitations to Tehran. A former Patriotic Union of Kurdistan politburo member Faraydun Abdulqadir revealed in 2017 that Iran would not display the Flag of Kurdistan during diplomatic visits.

Kurdish officials rejected demands of an Iranian delegation that came to Erbil before the referendum, further leading the Kurdistan Region to perceive Iran as a supporter of Baghdad and leading to the air and land blockades against Kurdistan. Additionally, Tehran was the first to halt its flights to Erbil and Sulaimani’s airports.

“I don’t think political relations will normalize so quickly and in a way that would allow a KRG delegation to visit Tehran. However, keeping our representation in Iran gives hope to the normalization and restoration of relations. I think the current policy [pursued by the KRG] is correct to try to tell the neighbors that we want to build better relations which are long overdue,” Dabagh said.