Iran on Sunday denied reports that Tehran had closed a border crossing with northern Iraq in response to an independence referendum in Iraq’s Kurdish region last month, the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) reported.

“As we announced earlier, we blocked our airspace to the Kurdish region on a request from the central government of Iraq, and as far as I know, nothing new has happened in this area,” ISNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi as saying.

Iran’s Tasnim news agency earlier reported that Iranian authorities had closed a main border crossing to Iraq’s Kurdish region .

Iran last month halted flights to and from Kurdish regions in northern Iraq over the independence referendum by the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Tehran also carried out wargames at the Kurdish border in September.

Tehran fears the spread of separatism to its own Kurdish population, which is around 8 million. Iran backs Shi‘ite groups which have been ruling or holding key security and government positions in Iraq since the 2003 U.S-led invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein.