Northern Iraq Steps Up Effort To Contain Syria Conflict

Article Summary
Authorities in Northern Iraq claim that the government there is taking precautionary measures against any potential spillover from the Syrian conflict. Bassem Francis reports that Kurdish leaders in Iraq deny forces were being sent to Syria to fight the regime, and arms prices are likely to rise in the border regions.

The governor of the Nineveh province in northern Iraq says his administration is taking precautionary steps in anticipation of any fallout from the developments in Syria. There are indications that weapons’ prices will double along the borders, and a Syrian Kurdish leader has revealed that a committee is to be formed to manage the areas taken over [by rebels] in Syrian Kurdish cities.

Nineveh Gov. Ethyl Najafi told Al-Hayat: "We have taken preventive measures on the border in anticipation of any clashes that may spill over to Iraq. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants were keen to prevent clashes from crossing over Iraqi border. The province's border has remained open to welcome Iraqis returning from Syria. We have taken the necessary measures to facilitate their return, however, the freight traffic and the crossing procedures of Syrians and others are being delayed by Syrian parties, not us."

When asked about his stance on the Iraqi government's position refusing to welcome Syrian refugees, Najafi said "this matter is related to Iraq's foreign policy. We cannot take a political position that is in direct conflict with the country's official position. We shall adhere to our government political stance. However, I personally believe that this decision is not right and violates human rights, which state that each person has a right to a safe haven when their lives are endangered."

Najafi added that "the Syrian army managed to regain control over Rabia border crossing (northwest of Mosul), hours after FSA militants took over the area."

The Iraqi-Syrian border stretches for about 600 km. Half of it is along Anbar province, where the population is of Sunni majority. Anbar lies in West Iraq, and the two countries share many border crossings.

Regarding the province's concerns about the recent developments in Syria, Najafi said: "We anticipate imminent political repercussions in view of the sectarian tension that has begun to escalate in Syria. Therefore, we have taken preventive measures to prevent any sectarian conflict from spilling over into Iraq."

“That there are indications suggesting that the price of small arms is likely to double in the border areas, compared to the past two months. This means that there are some individual cases of smuggling. However, we do not yet have precise information on this," said Najafi.

The leader of the [Kurdish] Democratic Progressive Party in the Syrian Kurdish National Council said: "The Kurdish rebels have taken control of a number of cities. We believe that joint management must be applied in the cities where populations are mixed — that is where Arabs, Kurds and Assyrians live. We completely reject any attempt to limit the management of these cities to the Kurds alone." He also stressed that "a higher committee including all parties, including Kurdish movements and independents, was formed to manage the affairs in the liberated cities."

When asked about the reports claiming that Iraqi Kurdish militants entered Kurdish areas in Syria, Darwish said, "We refuse any intervention by any other forces. We along with the Arabs and Assyrians have what it takes to liberate these cities on our own."

In the same context, the deputy minister of the peshmerga [Kurdish fighters] in the Kurdistan Regional Government, Anwar Hajj Osman, denied allegations about "sending Kurdish militants to support the Syrian Kurds."

"The Eight Brigade affiliated with the peshmerga forces is protecting the border regions between the Kurdistan Region and Syria. The second group of the Eight Brigade is stationed in the border area to monitor the oil fields."

On another note, the Immigration Department in Dohuk said that the number of Syrian refugees in the province "has reached more than 10,000."

"The province continues to receive 50 people per day and we are expecting to receive larger numbers in the upcoming days," he said.

Found in: weapons, syrian crisis, syrian-iraqi border, syrian, syria, smuggling, pkk, massoud barzani, kurds, krg, iraq, border, bashar al-assad, barzani

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