Who controls key Iraq-Turkey border?

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Iraqi Kurds wave fabrics with the color of the Kurdish flag during a protest in support of the Iraqi Kurdish leader in Irbil, the capital of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. — AFP

Istanbul — There were conflicting reports about Iraqi government forces taking control of the key border crossing with Turkey in the Iraqi Kurdistan region after weeks of tensions between Baghdad and Irbil.

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 Al-Khalil crossing alongside Turkish forces with whom they have been carrying out joint exercises over the last weeks, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

They were to raise the Iraqi national flag and take down the flag of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) which had until now controlled the crossing, it said.

The border crossing was closed while the handover was being carried out, leading to long queues, it added. There were no reports of any clashes.

However, an Iraqi Kurdish official denied reports that Iraqi federal forces have taken control of a key border crossing between Turkey and Iraq's northern Kurdish region.

Abdul Wahab Mohammed, who heads the Kurdish border intelligence, says "no Iraqis have entered or taken over" the crossing of Ibrahim Al-Khalil.

Mohammed said a senior Iraqi officer — Othman Al-Ghanmi, the chief of staff to the Iraqi Army — only briefly met with Iraqi troops on Turkey's side of the crossing. Iraqi troops are in Turkey for military drills.

The Kurdish region has found itself increasingly isolated after holding a non-binding independence referendum on Sept. 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 KRG, reacted with fury to the referendum, fearing the move could encourage separatism among its own Kurdish minority.

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

Border crossings have become a contested issue after last month's Kurdish independence referendum. Baghdad has demanded that all border control revert to federal authorities and has also banned all international flights to and from the Kurdish region. — Agencies


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