Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat–Several Kurdish MPs from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) visited the Fish Khabur border crossing between Syria and Iraq’s Kurdish region on Wednesday to inspect the humanitarian situation there.
The visit follows reports that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had closed the crossing, imposing a de facto economic blockade against the Kurdish-held areas of Syria.
Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to Dr. Sarwar Abdulrahman, one of the five MPs who visited the crossing. The Kurdish MP said that the KRG authorities allow humanitarian aid, including food and medication, to be sent to the Kurdish-held areas in Syria, allowing the injured to be treated in the hospitals of Iraqi Kurdistan.
However, the PUK said that such steps are not enough, demanding that KRG open the borders for trade between the two areas.
“I saw thousands of citizens gathered on the Syrian side waiting for permission to enter the region’s cities for trade, but authorities there do not allow them,” Abdulrahman said.
Abdulrahman said that the issue is “purely political” and that there is a need for a “political agreement between the two sides in order to solve it.”
The five MPs reportedly wanted to cross the Syrian borders to meet citizens there and inspect the humanitarian situation in the area, but they were denied access by the KRG’s authorities who claimed they still need to have a permit from the Syrian side.
The visit came only days after the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, called for the formation of a delegation to investigate massacres allegedly committed against Kurds in Syria’s Western Kurdistan region by radical Islamist elements affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front.
It was reported that large numbers of Kurds, including women and children, were killed by Al-Qaeda-linked elements in the Kurdish-majority Syrian towns of Tell Aran and Tell Hasel.
The growing Islamist–Kurdish violence in civil-war-torn Syria spurred Barzani into action. In a letter to the Kurdish National Conference that is due to take place on August 24, Barzani pledged to take action against Al-Qaeda if reports of their role in committing massacres against Syrian Kurds are shown to be true.
For his part, Salih Muslim, the head of the most powerful Kurdish faction in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), welcomed Barzani’s statements, saying: “Barzani’s letter does not mean intervention in Western Kurdistan’s domestic affairs; rather, it aims to thoroughly investigate the massacres committed by Salafist forces against the Kurds.”
In a related news, Yazidi Kurds based in the villages near Afrin, a Kurdish-dominated town in Aleppo, were said to have called upon Barzani to rescue them from the crimes and threat of the Al-Nusra Front.