26 Sept 2017 (AlJazeera News)
Iraq’s army has paired with Turkish forces to conduct joint military drills on the two nations’ shared border, military officials said.
Iraqi soldiers arrived in Turkey late on Monday in the face of exercises due to be carried out on Tuesday in Habur, near Turkey’s southeastern border with Iraq, a Turkish military statement said.
The joint drills come after Iraqi Kurds held a referendum on independence in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq on Monday, in defiance of the Turkish and Iraqi government.
Tuesday’s drills will conclude Turkey’s military exercises in its southeastern region, which began on September 18, a week before Monday’s vote.
The ballot on independence, organised by Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), is expected to return a majority “yes” vote when results are announced, which is expected to be within 72 hours.
Masoud Barzani, president of the KRG, said he would seek talks with Baghdad on how to implement the outcome of the poll.
“If we have a constructive dialogue, then we can give it even more time, in order to secure better relations between the Kurds and Baghdad,” he said on September 24.
Iraq, however, opposes the non-binding vote on the grounds that it contravenes the country’s constitution.
Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, told reporters on Monday the government would not hold talks with the KRG following the referendum.
“We are not ready to discuss or have a dialogue about the results of the referendum because it is unconstitutional,” he said.
Turkey, which is home to an estimated 14 million Kurds, has also opposed the vote.
Ankara is concerned the referendum could encourage Turkey’s own Kurdish minority population to seek autonomy.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, said in a speech on Monday that Ankara will close the Habur border crossing with northern Iraq following the plebiscite, and threatened to block Kurdish authorities from exporting oil to Turkey.
“After this, let’s see through which channels the northern Iraqi regional government will send its oil, or where it will sell it,” he said. “We have the tap. The moment we close the tap, then it’s done.”
Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day flow through pipelines in northern Iraq’s Kurdish-controlled territory into Turkey.
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