AFP: Traders in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region flocked on Sunday to a border post Iran announced it would reopen after a two-week closure to protest at the US arrest of an Iranian national. BAGHDAD (AFP) Traders in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region flocked on Sunday to a border post Iran announced it would reopen after a two-week closure to protest at the US arrest of an Iranian national.
The trucks began arriving early Sunday at the Haj Umran frontier crossing but by mid-morning there was no sign of movement from the Iranian side, said Abdul Wahid Koani, mayor of the frontier town of Joman.
“The merchants went this morning to with their trucks hoping to cross over but the gates were still shut,” said Koani, whose town is near the Haj Umran border post.
“But the Iranian side always takes its time,” he added. “It could be two days or three hours.”
Iran’s semi-official news agency Fars had reported that the border would reopen on Sunday.
“It has been agreed to reopen the borders as of… October 7, 2007” it quoted Iran’s Supreme National Security Council’s deputy in charge of domestic security, Mohammad Jafari, as saying on Saturday.
Tehran had closed its borders with northern Iraq on September 24 following the detention of Mahmoud Farhadi by US forces.
The US military charges that Farhadi is an officer of the Quds Force, the covert operations arm of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards which is accused by American commanders of helping Shiite militias involved in Iraq’s bloody sectarian conflict.
Iran and the Kurdish regional government however say Farhadi is a businessman who was part of a commercial delegation visiting Sulaimaniyah.
“After two days of negotiations, it was agreed that Iraq takes necessary steps to control the border and block the penetration of terrorists into the Iranian soil,” Jafari said of the results of recent talks with a high-ranking Kurdish delegation in Tehran.
The talks would continue on October 18, he said.
Iran has accused the United States of turning a blind eye to the actions of the local rebels.
Washington also accuses Tehran of fomenting unrest in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
A member of the Kurdish delegation, Nabhan Omar, told reporters in Sulaimaniyah by telephone from Tehran that the opening of the border was for a trial period of 18 days.
“It is a temporary measure and during this time we will try to agree on a mechanism that will allow for a permanent reopening of the border,” Omar said.
“It was agreed that neither side would allow their territory to be used by armed groups as a springboard for attacks across the borders.”
Iran confirmed for the first time on September 23 that it had been shelling camps of Kurdish militants inside northern Iraq, saying the local authorities had not listened to its warnings.
The militant Kurdish separatist group PJAK — linked to Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — has been behind a string of deadly attacks on security forces in northwestern Iran in recent months.
Omar said it had also been agreed to reopen the Iranian consulate in Arbil which was shut in January when US forces raided the building and arrested five Iranians they said were Quds Force officers.
Another Iranian consulate would be opened in Sulaimaniyah while Iraqi consulates would be opened in Kermanshah and Urmia, two cities in northwestern Iran near the borders of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.