Kurds in northern Iraq and Syria have been divided by a 17-kilometer trench which was dug by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), ostensibly to prevent the infiltration of militants and smuggling from the war-torn country.
Iraqi Kurds say the trench is designed to prevent the infiltration of al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and stop smugglers. However, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which declared the establishment of a constituent assembly earlier this year in the northern parts of Syria locally known as Rojava, condemned the trench as an attempt to blockade the country’s Kurds, and closed the border crossing with the KRG in protest. Hundreds of people have been waiting to cross since the border was closed on April 12.
The trench is 17 kilometers long, two meters deep and three meters wide, and is “part of an Iraqi [federal] government strategy” to protect the country’s 600-kilometer border with Syria, said Halkurd Mullah Ali, the spokesman for the Kurdish region’s Peshmerga Security Ministry.
However, the chair of the legislative Parliament of the Jazeera canton of Rojava, Hekem Kello, said the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of KRG President Masoud Barzani began to dig the trench because it was unable to dictate how Rojava is run.
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Şırnak deputy Hasip Kaplan also condemned the move. “Apart from those who put borders among Kurds, it is agonizing that Kurds are erecting these borders. We cannot accept this, and it is not acceptable,” Kaplan said April 15.
Meanwhile, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani April 16 met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at his Ankara office. Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said the talks over Kurdish oil export with the KRG were ongoing.
Separately, Masoud Barzani received Ayad Allawi, the leader of Iraq’s main Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, on April 15. The meeting, held in Arbil, touched on several domestic issues, including upcoming parliamentary polls and post-election alliances, the KRG statement said. Allawi reportedly said his party wanted to see Masoud Barzani as the president of Iraq. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has been in Germany since December 2012 after suffering a stroke.