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Iraq 'takes over' Turkey border crossing from Kurds

Turkish and Iraqi troops have held joint military drills at the crossing since September [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 October, 2017

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Turkish and Iraqi military forces have reached the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing between Turkey and northern Iraq, with Iraqi forces due to take control of the gate from the KRG.
Iraqi government forces took control of the key border crossing with Turkey in the Iraqi Kurdistan region on Tuesday after weeks of tensions between Baghdad and Erbil.

The border crossing "has been handed over to the central government" of Iraq, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told his ruling party at a televised meeting in Ankara.

He said all controls at the border will now be carried out by Iraqi and Turkish officials on their respective sides.

The Iraqi forces deployed at the Ibrahim Khalil crossing alongside Turkish forces were preparing to raise the Iraqi national flag, state-run Anadolu news agency said.

Troops of both countries, who have been holding a joint military drill since mid-September, advanced towards the Habur gate from the Turkish side early on Tuesday with tanks and armoured vehicles and then crossed through the gate to the Iraqi side.

"We have raised the Iraqi flag over the border crossing with Turkey today and it is officially under the full control of the Iraqi government," one Iraqi official, border police captain Ali Abdul Ilah, told Reuters.

However, Kurdish regional authorities denied the crossing had been handed over.

"Negotiations are still ongoing," said a Kurdish official in the Kurdistan regional capital Erbil.

The Kurdish region has found itself increasingly isolated after holding a non-binding independence referendum on September 25 that was opposed not just by Baghdad but also Iran, Turkey and the Kurds' Western allies.

Turkey, which over the last years had cultivated strong trade ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG], reacted with fury to the referendum, fearing the move could encourage separatism amongst its own Kurdish minority.

Deemed by many analysts to have severely overplayed his hand by holding the referendum, KRG's leader Massoud Barzani said at the weekend that he was stepping down.

Speaking at a closed parliamentary session on Sunday, Barzani read a letter saying he will not seek to extend his term as president when after November 1, effectively resigning from government.

"After November 1, I will no longer exercise my functions, and I reject any extension of my mandate," the veteran Kurdish politician told parliament.

"Changing the law on the presidency of Kurdistan or prolonging the presidential term is not acceptable," he said.

He told parliament he would remain as a member of the Peshmerga, the Kurdish fighting force alligned to the KRG and the Barzani family.


The Iraq Report is a weekly feature at The New Arab.

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