Iraqi soldiers join Turkish exercises near shared border
ANKARAIraqi soldiers joined Turkish troops for military exercises in southeast Turkey near the border with Iraq on Sept. 26 as the two countries coordinate steps in response to the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum.
A small group of soldiers holding aloft an Iraqi and a Turkish flag walked across the dusty plain where the exercises, launched last week, were being held some 4 kilometers from the Habur border gate.
The flags were then held aloft from the top of an armored personnel carrier.
National and international media observed the exercises from the main highway leading to the border gate.
The military stated late on Sept. 25 that Turkey and Iraq would launch a joint military exercise on the Turkish-Iraqi border on Sept. 26 following an independence referendum in northern Iraq,
Turkey started its military manoeuvers in the southeastern district of Silopi on Sept. 18, a week ahead of the referendum on independence in northern Iraq.
On Sept. 25, Iraqis in areas held by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) - and in a handful of territories disputed between Arbil and Baghdad - voted to decide whether to secede from Iraq.
Along with Baghdad, Turkey, the U.S., Iran and the U.N. have all spoken out against the poll, saying it will only distract from the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and further destabilize the region.
In a brief statement on its official website, the Turkish General Staff said the third phase of the military exercise will start on Sept. 26 jointly with the Iraqi military in the Habur border gate, also known as the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing, on the Turkish-Iraqi border in Silopi.
The area sits to the north of the Syrian and Iraqi borders and contains the Habur border crossing, which provides the KRG with its main access point to the outside world.
Across the Syrian frontier from Silopi lies territory controlled by the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Counter-terrorism operations targeting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on the Turkish side of the border are ongoing, the statement said.