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Iraq ‘to take control of Kurdistan border crossings’


Iraq 'to take control of Kurdistan border crossings'

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Iraq's government said it would take control of all crossings after last month's referendum

The Iraqi military has said it is preparing to take control of the autonomous Kurdistan Region's only border crossings with Turkey and Syria.

A statement said a delegation had visited the Ibrahim al-Khalil and Fish Khabur posts to determine requirements.

Turkish media said troops had already been deployed at Ibrahim al-Khalil.

Iraq's government said it wanted control of all crossings after the Kurdistan Region held a controversial independence referendum last month.

Baghdad said the vote, in which people living in Kurdish-controlled areas overwhelmingly backed secession, was illegal.

The referendum was also opposed by Iran and Turkey, which both have sizeable Kurdish minorities, the United Nations and the US, a key Kurdish ally.

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Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported that Turkish and Iraqi forces, who have been participating in joint military exercises since mid-September, moved towards the Turkish-side of Ibrahim al-Khalil crossing on Tuesday morning.

Kurdish forces were expected to hand over the control of the Iraqi side within hours, after which the Iraqi national flag would be raised above it, it added.

Skip Twitter post by @anadoluagency

Turkish, Iraqi forces reach border crossing in Iraqi side

— ANADOLU AGENCY (ENG) (@anadoluagency) October 31, 2017


End of Twitter post by @anadoluagency

Later, an Iraqi border police captain told Reuters news agency the flag was flying and the crossing was "officially under the full control of the Iraqi government".

However, an Iraqi military statement said only that a delegation led by the army's chief of staff, Lt Gen Othman al-Ghanmi, had visited Ibrahim al-Khalil and Fish Khabur to "determine the military and security requirements" for taking control.

A Kurdish official also told Reuters that the crossing had not yet been handed over, insisting that negotiations with Baghdad were "still ongoing".

Iraq's entire border with Turkey is officially located within the Kurdistan Region.

The Fish Khabur crossing with Syria is also inside the region. The Syrian side is controlled by a US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, which is led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia.

But in the past two weeks, Iraqi pro-government forces have recaptured most of the disputed territory outside the region that was seized by Kurdish Peshmerga forces in 2014 after the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) swept across northern Iraq.

The operation – involving soldiers, police, special forces and the Iranian-backed paramilitary Popular Mobilisation force – sparked clashes that left dozens dead.

Last week, the Kurdistan Regional Government called for a ceasefire and offered to "freeze" the result of the referendum and start dialogue with Baghdad. But Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi demanded that the result be annulled.

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