Sulaimaniya, Asharq Al-Awsat- Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki visited the Kurdistan Province on Thursday and met with the leader of the province, Masud Barzani, and senior officials of both the two main parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Following that visit, the Government of the Kurdistan Province reached an agreement in principle with Iran that provides for a halt to the Iranian artillery bombardment of Kurdish border villages that lie on the Qandil mountains inside the territories of the Iraqi Kurdistan Province.
Nazim Umar al-Dabbagh, representative of the Kurdistan Province Government in Tehran, who serves as a consul, said: “The agreement went into effect as of Saturday. Under the agreement, the Iranian forces’ artillery will refrain from shelling villages and populated areas. From now on, the villagers can return to their villages, which they vacated in the past because of continued Iranian artillery bombardment.”
In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Dabbagh added that a joint committee from both sides has been set up to observe the daily conditions on the joint border and stop the bombardment of populated Kurdish villages and border areas. He pointed out that the agreement excludes the mountainous areas in which armed men belonging to the Free Life Party of Kurdistan, PEJAK, which is opposed to Iran, hold fortified positions.
Al-Dabbagh said: “The Iranian artillery will continue to shell areas, crossings, and roads used by the PEJAK armed men. However, the Iranian artillery will avoid villages, civilian areas, and Kurdish villagers’ farms.”
He added: “The aim behind the Iranian foreign minister’s visit to the Kurdistan Province was to boost relations between Iran on the one hand and Iraq and the Kurdistan Province on the other.”
He went on: “During his talks with officials in the province, the Iranian minister did not discuss the artillery shelling of Kurdish villages. However, we, at the representative office of the Kurdistan Province Government in Tehran, held a series of meetings and talks with Iranian officials in the past days. These meetings and talks resulted in an agreement to halt the shelling of our border villages in the form that I mentioned earlier.”
Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Province Government Nechervan Barzani visited Tehran on 10 August 2008. Also, the leader of the province, Masud Barzani, visited Tehran on 22 August 2008, accompanied by the leaders of four Kurdish parties.
The two leaders’ visits to Tehran resulted in the formation of a joint committee consisting of senior officials from both sides. The committee’s task is to discuss outstanding issues and problems between the two sides and to resolve them through joint efforts by holding regular meetings.
Al-Dabbagh said: “The committee will monitor the situation on the border, record violations, and report them to the higher authorities to deal with them.”