Haji Omran located between the Kurdish province of Erbil and Iranian West Azerbaijan is one of three major international land gates between the Kurdistan Region and Iran. File photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Erbil province and its Iranian neighbour of West Azerbaijan are seeking to operate the international border of Haji Omran on a 24-hour basis to facilitate trade, an Iranian governor said at a joint conference with his counterpart from Erbil.
A high-level delegation from the local government of Erbil headed by Governor Nawzad Hadi visited Urmia, the capital city of West Azerbaijan, northwestern Iran to strengthen trade and economic ties.
The two sides have agreed to work on removing challenges at the only international border between the two provinces, extending operations to 24 hours daily, even on public holidays, Mohammed Shahryari, the Iranian governor, said, according to semi-official Tasnim news agency.
Shahryari said that his province has also pledged to help transport domestic-use gas to Erbil through the Haji Omran port, following a request from the Erbil provincial government.
Ahmad Qadir, mayor of Choman district who accompanied the Erbil delegation, told Rudaw that they "welcome" the gas pipeline to the border city, but added that they still have to seek approval from relevant bodies of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Erbil Governor Hadi stressed the importance of the Haji Omran crossing for his administration as it is Erbil province’s only international border, Tasnim reported.
Hadi said that Erbil has allocated 500 million Iraqi dinars ($415,000) to develop border infrastructure to ease the movement of people and goods.
The two sides are to hold regular meetings to hammer down agreements on bilateral cooperation.
Tahir Abdullah, deputy governor of Erbil said in their visit to Urmia they demanded to bilaterally work on removing routines being made to people using Haji Omeran to cross to Iran and vice versa.
"We know commute and business continue through the crossing, but there are some minor issues which need to be resolved," he said, adding the issues include; having "tough measures sometimes against small-sized vehicles and higher taxation than the original amount."
He said they also asked "for removing some sort of routines which exhaust people and take lots of time from them."
"Thus, we decided to work to remove these obstacles."
He said it was decided in their meeting to continue talks once every two months between the deputy governors of Erbil and Urmia.
He added the Iranian authorities also demanded more investment in the Kurdistan Region.
"But, due to the continued economic crisis of the Kurdistan, it will not be easy for them to do investment at the moment in the Kurdistan Region," he alerted.
However, he said, "We strongly seek to boost our economic ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran as Iran is an important neighbor to us."
He added the Iranian authorities demanded the increase of export and import volumes between both sides.
Iran closed all of its international land gates with the Kurdistan Region in mid-October following the Kurdish referendum on independence held on September 25, despite opposition from Iraq and Iran, among others. It reopened Bashmakh gate with Sulaimani province ten days later while the decision to reopen Haji Omran and Parviz Khan in Garmiyan was postponed to early January.
Iran has pledged to provide Iraq with $2 billion to help with reconstruction in the country following the military defeat of ISIS late last year, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Wednesday during a joint press conference with Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri.
Jahangiri headed a high level Iranian visit to Iraq of ministers of commerce, industry, and foreign affairs, as well as the banking sector. He also met with a number of Iraqi officials, including President Fuad Masum, a Kurd, parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri, and Vice President Nouri al-Maliki.
The focus of his visit was to ease trade and commerce cooperation between Iran and Iraq, the two sides revealed, with Iran requesting Iraq to facilitate banking cooperation between the two countries.
Jahangiri has told Iraqi officials that they want to see trade between the two countries surpass $7 billion annually, state-run Irna news agency reported.
Tehran and Baghdad were scheduled to sign a comprehensive framework for bilateral relations following Jahangiri's Iraq visit, Iraj Masjidi, Iranian ambassador to Baghdad, told reporters on Thursday.
Last updated at 9:10 p.m.