Kurdish visa only valid in Kurdistan

  • AFP
  • 14/02/2009 00:00:00

Baghdad does not recognize travel documents issued in Kurdistan Region.

Foreigners who enter Iraq through Kurdistan region without a valid visa issued by the authorities in Baghdad will be detained and face legal charges, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior warned. An Italian national who entered Iraq through Kurdistan region has already been deported.

The announcement came after an Italian national was detained in the former rebel stronghold of Fallujah, in Western Iraq, after having been issued with a 10-day visa in Kurdistan region.

"Any foreigner entering Iraq through the border posts of Kurdistan without a visa from the Baghdad government will be arrested, under a new directive issued by the interior ministry," spokesman Abdul Karim Khalaf said.

"Foreigners wishing to visit Iraqi territory, whether they are journalists or not, must obtain an official visa to be able to enter and stay in Iraq," he said.

"The interior ministry is the only authority entitled to issue such a visa," the spokesman said.

Under the law, foreigners without the proper visa from Baghdad will face legal charges, he said. They would be "sentenced to fines or prison terms, followed by deportation."

Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurdistan Ministry for Interior Affairs on Tuesday stated that Iraqi Kurdistan Region still grants visa to the foreigners who want to visit the region.

Fayaq Tofiq, the acting minister for interior affairs of Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) explained that the person who receives Kurdistan region visa can only travel inside the border of Kurdistan region; he or she can not go to any Iraqi city with a Kurdistan region visa.

Fayaq Tofiq said the KRG was surprised by this act, it believes that it has the right to grant visa to foreigners and this visa should be accepted by Iraqi central government.

Chief of the KRG foreign relations, Falah Mustafa, told AFP that the region's visa procedures were being coordinated with the authorities in Baghdad.

Foreigners are unlikely to be arrested under the new visa rules in the three autonomous Kurdish provinces, where the Kurdish peshmerga forces instead of the central government's security forces are in control.

On Friday, the New York Times reported that a 33-year-old Italian, Luca Marchio, had been detained in Fallujah after having passed through northern Iraq following trips to Egypt and Turkey.

"I am a tourist. I want to see the most important cities in the country. That is the reason why I am here now ... I want to see and understand the reality because I have never been here before," he told the daily.

Khalaf told AFP the Italian was deported after having been detained.

  • AFP
  • 14/02/2009 00:00:00