Mohammad Hossein Rajabi, the commander of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) in the Kurdish province of Kurdistan. Photo: Tasnim News Agency
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region--An Iranian top commander warned on Friday that the consulate of Saudi Arabia should leave the Kurdish capital of Erbil because their presence in Kurdistan Region destabilizes peace and causes chaos, he claimed.
Mohammad Hossein Rajabi, the commander of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) in the Kurdish province of Kurdistan also raised questions about the presence of more than 30 regional and international diplomatic representations in Erbil, Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reported.
Falah Mustafa, the foreign minister for Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), said that the KRG was surprised that a neighboring country is trying to interfere in the internal affairs of Kurdistan, while hoping that they will not bring their problems to Erbil.
“The question is that what the Saudi Consulate is doing in Kurdistan?” Rajabi asked as he explained that Saudi Arabia does not share a border with Kurdistan Region, therefore there is no need for them to be based in Kurdistan. “How many Arab people are there so that they need to provide services for them from there? That is why there is no justification for their presence, because their goal is to cause chaos and destabilize peace.”
“It is true that we protect [our] security, but the Saudi Consulate is betraying the people of Iraqi Kurdistan, too.” Rajabi claimed before warning that “They have to leave [Erbil] because the people of Iraq do not need them.”
In a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and other senior officials, the Japanese consulate opened its doors for the first time on Wednesday, joining dozens of other countries who have representation in the Kurdistan Region.
Kurdish officials often regard the presence of these diplomatic missions in Erbil as a success for the Kurdish diplomacy.
President Masoud Barzani also met with with foreign representatives in Erbil on Thursday.
Iran has a consulate in Erbil, and another in Sulaimani, while Saudi Arabia has only one consulate in the capital Erbil, opened last February.
“The presence of 30 consulates in Iraqi Kurdistan is not normal,” Rajabi noted, “they are not there to conduct state affairs or serve the host people, but rather many of them are there for espionage, cowardly act and mobilization.”
“We are surprised that a neighboring country is trying to interfere in our internal affairs and dictate ways of doing things for us,” Musafa told Rudaw, “We are respecting our relations with our neighbors, and we hope for this relation to be marked by mutual respect and mutual understanding.”
Mustafa repeated the KRG policy that they do not want to become part of the wider regional rivalries between the Sunni majority Saudi Arabia and the Shiite majority Iran.
“We are not a threat to any country, and the proof to that is our past. We are open in our policy, and we will not become a part of a regional or global rivalry. And if [certain] countries have rivalries, we hope that they will not bring that to Kurdistan Region, because we are concerned about the peace, stability, and welfare of our people.”
Rajabi’s remarks come amid rising tensions between Tehran and Riyadh that escalated in the aftermath of the Hajj stampede in Mecca in September 2015 and the Saudi execution of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr last January.
Iran and Saudi Arabia also are on opposite ends of the wars in Syria and Yemen.