The Haji Omran crossing between Kurdistan Region and Iran. File photo: Safin Hamed/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Officials in Sanandaj want a new border crossing connecting the Kurdistan Province of Iran to Sulaimani Province in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq at Seyf-Ahmadawa.
Sanandaj Governor Behmen Muradnia announced on Thursday he plans to travel to the Kurdistan Region to discuss bolstering ties and the opening of a new border crossing near Saqqez city, Iran’s IRNA has reported.
Seyf is on the Iranian side of the border, while Ahmadawa is in the Kurdistan Region, about 53 kilometers northwest of Sulaimani city.
The Iranian government is "seriously" working to open the Seyf crossing with the Kurdistan Region for business and tourism purposes, said Muradnia.
Tehran has allocated funding to start work on the crossing and Muradnia blamed the Kurdistan Regional Government for delays, saying they were neglecting the issue.
Muradnia visited Saqqez earlier this week, when he hinted the city will open an airport next year with the budget already earmarked.
There are three main official border crossings between the Kurdistan Region and Iran – Bashmakh, Haji Omran, and Parviz-Khan. There are also a string of semi-official or unofficial crossings along the porous border.
Temporary closures of the borders over the past year damaged
the economies on both sides of the frontier.
Iran closed the borders for three months at the request of Baghdad in response to the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum. Iraq subsequently closed seven of the unofficial crossings earlier this year as it sought to exert federal control over trade and customs.
Shop owners in Kurdish cities in Iran staged a strike in May, protesting rising costs due to prolonged closure of unofficial border crossings.
The Kurdistan Region formulated a plan to bring unofficial border points up to international standards
in order to gain official approval from Baghdad and foster the more than $5 billion in trade that crosses the border between Iran and the Kurdistan Region.
Governments in Erbil and Tehran are keen to improve trade relations. A few days before Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran and began re-imposing sanctions, officials from the KRG and Iranian government floated the idea of a free trade zone
Iraq, which depends on vital imports from Iran in sectors like energy and electricity, is reportedly seeking a waiver on sanctions from Washington.