A YPG fighter at the Tel Kocer border crossing. Photo: PYD/Facebook
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The foreign minister of the Cizire Canton, declared in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) last month, says he held positive talks with Iraqi officials about opening the Tel Kocer border crossing, but senior officials in Baghdad denied any knowledge of meetings or the visit itself.
"On the commercial level, Baghdad has given us some promises and its decision that we will meet with the officials in Baghdad to reach an agreement over opening the Tel Kocer border crossing between Rojava and Iraq," said Salih Gido, the Cizire Canton foreign minister.
He said his meetings were “more commercial,” and that he had met no political official in Baghdad.
In mid-February, Gido and two deputies arrived on their first diplomatic visit to the autonomous Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq, hoping to improve ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Iraqi Kurdish parties.
The KRG and its dominant component, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), refused meeting with Gido, while the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Change Movement (Gorran) and other parties received the Rojava delegation in Sulaimani.
The KRG has consistently reaffirmed it would not recognize the declaration of autonomy in Rojava by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) on grounds that it has been unilateral and sidelines other Kurdish groups, some of them backed by the KRG.
The KDP has been a traditional rival of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the force behind the PYD.
According to Rudaw sources, Gido and his delegation visited Baghdad after being disappointed at the cold reception by the KRG.
The Iraqi minister of foreign affairs, Hoshyar Zebari, said he did not have knowledge of Gido’s visit to Baghdad. “I am not aware of this matter and have no any information about the trip of this delegation to Baghdad” Zebari, who is a Kurd, told Rudaw.
Ali Moussawi, media adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, also rejected claims that Iraqi officials had met with the Cizire delegation, stressing that Baghdad did not know about the visit and that it opposed dealings with the cantons.
The PYD's self-declared cantons in Rojava are under heavy political and economic pressure within Syria, mainly because the group’s armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), is at war with Islamist forces involved in the Syrian civil war.
Regionally, the PYD has failed to forge alliances because the KRG and Turkey have refused to deal with the PYD.
Earlier this month, Gido declared he would embark on a major diplomatic mission to neighboring countries to improve relations with Iraq, Turkey and Iran in a bid to open borders and ease a trade and diplomatic siege.
Gido, who is the head of the Kurdish Democratic Left Party, was a member of the Kurdish National Council (KNC), a grouping of Syrian Kurdish parties. However, his party was expelled from the KNC after he was appointed foreign minister of the Cizire Canton.