Turkey, Middle East

Joint Turkish-Iraqi drills begin near Iraqi border

Joint military exercises along Turkish-Iraqi border continue with involvement of Iraqi forces on the ground

Merve Aydoğan   | 26.09.2017
Joint Turkish-Iraqi drills begin near Iraqi border SIRNAK, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 26: Turkish and Iraqi Armed Forces launch a joint military exercise on the Turkish-Iraqi border following a controversial referendum in northern Iraq, in Silopi district of Sirnak province, Turkey on September 26, 2017. ( Fatih Aktaş - Anadolu Agency )

By Hasan Namli and Burak Milli

SIRNAK / HATAY, Turkey

The Turkish army has begun the third phase of its military exercises, now with the involvement of Iraqi Armed Forces units near the Iraqi border, a statement said on Monday.

The maneuvers began nearly a week before Monday’s Kurdish region independence referendum in northern Iraq, a vote opposed by Turkey and the wider international community.

In a statement on its website, the Turkish Armed Forces said the exercises entered their third phase on their ninth day with the involvement of Iraqi Army units.

The area of the exercises is north of the Iraqi border, including the Habur border crossing, which provides northern Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) -- that held the controversial referendum -- its main access point to the outside world.

The arrival of Iraqi forces for joint military exercises with Turkish forces came two days after Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Gen. Othman al-Ghanimi's visit to Ankara to discuss the referendum.

Monday's non-binding referendum took place in KRG-held areas in northern Iraq, including areas disputed between Erbil and Baghdad.

Iraq’s central government has threatened to intervene militarily if the vote leads to violence.

The final results of the controversial poll, in which roughly 72 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots, are expected within three days.

On Monday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said due to the vote, Turkey would take political, economic, commercial and security steps against the KRG.

Separately, the military deployment of armed vehicles and materials continued as part of Turkey's military reinforcements along its southern border with Syria.

Turkey last week previously transferred 30 wagonfuls of military vehicles to its Ahmet Tor Barracks in Hatay, set to be amassed at the Syrian frontier.

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