Syrian autonomous administration closes Semalka border crossing with Kurdistan Region
In a move that could have profound humanitarian effects, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) on Tuesday, June 22, announced that it would close its side of the Semalka border crossing with the Kurdistan Region because of technical problems related to alleged maltreatment of travelers by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

In a letter addressed to UN agencies and humanitarian organizations, the AANES said that the border crossing will remain open for its representatives and members, but closed for other groups.

The decision came in response to the “actions and restrictions” at the KDP-run checkpoint on the Kurdistan Region side of the border, according to a statement dated June 21.

It said that the KDP’s decisions were “contrary to morals and good neighborliness.”

The measures allegedly include making travelers fill out a form that the AANES described as “purely an intelligence form,” making some travelers wait 48 hours in order to obtain approval to enter the Kurdistan Region, and subjecting travelers to “unethical treatment,” including those requiring emergency medical treatment.

 “Many travelers have special cases to enter quickly, such as cancer patients who receive their treatment in the Region, brides who have interviews in foreign embassies, and travelers coming from distant areas such as Kobani and al-Shahba,” it added.

The AANES called on the authorities in the Kurdistan Region to withdraw these arbitrary decisions and actions and to intervene to stop them which are considered inhumane and irresponsible decisions.

It did not say when the border may reopen.

The closure could negatively impact humanitarian efforts in northeastern Syria, which is largely dependent on outside aid and imports of manufactured goods, much of which enters through the Semalka crossing.

Amid Russian reluctance to allow humanitarian aid through other crossings into northeastern Syria, the crossing with the Kurdistan Region is vitally important.

The decision also comes at a time of heightened tensions between the KDP and the largest party in the AANES, the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

In recent weeks, security forces affiliated with the KDP arrested two AANES diplomats and an PYD official at Erbil International Airport and have refused to disclose information about their whereabouts.

Over the weekend, the AANES announced it was shutting down the office of Kurdistan 24 in northeastern Syria. The outlet is affiliated with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani.

On Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the closure.

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