BEIRUT (Reuters) - Iran opened a border crossing with the Kurdistan region of Iraq Wednesday after having closed it following last month’s vote in favor of independence in the Kurdish area, Iranian state media reported.
Iran backs the Shi’ite-led central government in Baghdad in its opposition to Kurdish secession, and Iranian-backed militias assisted government forces when they seized a number of Kurdish cities last week.
The decision comes on the same day as the Kurdish Regional Government offered to put their independence drive on hold, stepping up efforts to resolve a crisis in relations with Baghdad via dialogue rather than military means.
“After the referendum and changes within the Kurdistan region our borders with the Kurdistan region of Iraq were closed... today the Bashmagh border is open,” Jahangir Bakhshi, the head of customs for the border crossing, said, according to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) news agency.
The report made no mention the KRG’s offer for resolving the dispute through talks.
The Bashmagh border crossing is located approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of the city of Sulaimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Last week, Iraqi security forces took control of several cities, including the oil-rich Kirkuk, from Kurdish forces in a lightning assault. Shi’ite fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), many of whom have been armed and trained by Iran, took part in the military action.
Prior to the assault, Major-General Qassem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, traveled to Iraq’s Kurdistan region to encourage Kurdish leaders to withdraw their forces, known as Peshmerga, from Kirkuk.
Peshmerga commanders have accused Iran of orchestrating the operation, a charge Iranian officials have denied.
Bakshi said on Wednesday that it was not clear when the other borders points between Iran and the Kurdistan region of Iraq would reopen.
There is approximately 20 billion dollars of annual cross border trade through the Bashmagh border point Bakhshi said, according to IRIB.
Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by by Raissa Kasolowsky