A vehicle crosses a repaired bridge connecting the provinces of Erbil and Kirkuk in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on August 19, 2018. Photo: Rudaw TV
PIRDE, Kurdistan Region — After partial repairs to a bridge connecting Erbil and Kirkuk provinces at Pirde (Altun Kupri), "the road is officially now open,” Abdulkhaliq Talaat, the Erbil police chief told reporters on Sunday.
Talaat explained that bridge is open to passenger vehicles and truck carrying freight can resume using the bridge on August 25.
On the Erbil side, Erbil police will man the checkpoint and on the Iraqi government side, the Federal Police will do so, according to Talaat.
Authorities from the Kurdistan Region are coordinating with Iraqi Federal Police to reopen other roads connecting Erbil to the Kurdistani or disputed areas that fell to Iraqi forces on October 16, 2017.
"I hope it will continue until all the other roads are opened," he said.
The main bridge which was damaged during the October 2017 clashes will be repaired by the Iraqi government in six months, Talaat explained.
The KRG has spent 220 million dinars ($180,000) on building the temporary steel bridge. The Iraqi government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are also said to dedicate a special fund for a permanent bridge. Talaat revealed this figure is 1 billion dinars ($840,000).
For their part, the Federal Police said "it was the second checkpoint to be agreed on to resume traffic jointly after the one in Makhmour."
The main Erbil-Makhmour road was reopened in February. The town south of Erbil remains highly militarized by Iraqi forces.
Asked about the return of Kurdistani parties to Kirkuk and receiving their offices back, he said this was not discussed in their meeting, but it will be in the near future.
The route is the most direct between the provincial capitals of Erbil and Sulaimani. Travelers have used alternative and dangerous mountainous routes over the past 10 months. It is not clear if foreigners with residency in the Kurdistan Region will be permitted to cross through the Iraqi checkpoint.
Kirkuk is a disputed city claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad. The province and surrounding areas have seen an ISIS resurgence while under the authority of Iraqi forces and Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries.