Last updated: 27 July, 2011

Iraq says Iran shelling of Kurdish rebels damages ties

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari demanded on Wednesday that Iran stop shelling positions of Kurdish rebels inside Iraq, saying it damages ties between the neighbouring countries.

“We again demand that the Iranian government stop its continuing shelling” of the separatist Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) “because this is not constructive for Iraq-Iranian relations and damages ties,” he told reporters.

“The shelling has continued (off-and-on) for five years, but this time the duration has been longer than previous instances,” he added.

He said shelling was “random” and damaged farmland in the rural region.

On July 16, Iranian troops launched a major offensive against PJAK bases, losing at least eight Revolutionary Guards, including a senior officer, in clashes on the border.

In Tehran, state-run media reported Wednesday that Revolutionary Guards had killed more than 50 PJAK rebels since beginning the assault, and will continue the operation until Iraq deploys forces along the frontier to prevent cross-border attacks by PJAK rebels.

PJAK spokesman Sherzad Kamankar told AFP renewed clashes had taken place early Wednesday, and that his fighters had prevented a new Iranian incursion.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Monday the fighting has displaced hundreds of villagers in the border regions of northern Iraq.

The autonomous regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan has demanded that Iran respect the border after a Guards commander said Iranian forces had taken “full control” of three PJAK camps inside Iraq.

Some 200 protesters converged Tuesday outside the Iranian consulate in, capital of the Kurdistan region, demanding Tehran stop the shelling, said mayor Abdelwahed Kawani.

Meanwhile, Fian Suleiman, head of the Women’s Council of Kurdistan said that if the shelling did not stop within 72 hours her group would call for a ban on Iranian trade, boycott Iranian goods and call for a closing of the border crossing.

Her group is aligned with the Kurdistan Democratic Party of the regional president, Massud Barzani.

Iran is one of Iraq’s major trade partners, with a large volume of imports coming through the Kurdistan region.