Kurdistan shuts down Iran over commander's Saudi spy claims

Kurdistan shuts down Iran over commander's Saudi spy claims
The KRG has said only it had the right to decide if foreign states can operate consulates on its territory after an Iranian commander said Riyadh should not be permitted.
2 min read
16 January, 2017
An Iranian commander claimed Saudi Arabia's presence in Erbil pointed to espionage [Getty]
Kurdistan's Regional Government (KRG) said on Sunday that it alone had the right to decide whether foreign states should be allowed to operate consulates on its territory in a rebuke of comments made by a top Iranian commander on Friday calling for the Saudi Arabian consulate in Erbil to be closed. 

"The existence of foreign consulates and diplomatic missions in the Kurdistan Region is in accordance with the Iraqi and Kurdistan Region's laws," the KRG's statement said Sunday.

"Their works and activities are also within the framework of these laws. No one is entitled to request that a consulate be closed in the Kurdistan Region."

An Iranian top commander warned on Friday that the consulate of Saudi Arabia should leave the Kurdish capital of Erbil because, he thinks, their presence in the Kurdistan Region destabilises peace and causes chaos.

Mohammad Hossein Rajabi, the commander of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) in the Kurdish province of Kurdistan, northwestern of Iran, said that Saudi Arabia was having a destabilising effect on the Iraqi Kurdistan region and suggested the presence of more than 40 Saudi diplomatic representatives in Erbil pointed to espionage. 

"The question is that what the Saudi Consulate is doing in Kurdistan? … their goal is to cause chaos and destabilise peace," said Rajabi on Friday.

"They are not there to conduct state affairs or serve the host people, but rather many of them are there for espionage."

In Sunday's statement the KRG called Rajabi's remarks "irresponsible" calling on Tehran to adopt a "serious stance" to prevent a reoccurrence of such an incident. 

"These unacceptable statements are in no way in favor of the friendly relations between the Kurdistan Region and the Islamic Republic of Iran. We reject them in every way," the statement added.

Currently Iran operates two consulates in Iraqi Kurdistan, one in Erbil and one in Sulaimaniyeh, while Saudi Arabia has one in Erbil, which was opened last February. 

Iran and Saudi Arabia, regional rivals, have been at loggerheads since a Hajj stampede in Mecca in September 2015, in which numerous Iranian pilgrims were killed, and the January 2016 execution of Saudi Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

The two states also support opposing sides in the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen.