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Iraq readies to take control of Kurdish-Syria border

October 31, 2017 at 9:54 am

Iraqi security forces deploy armoured vehicles after taking control of Altun Kopru village of Kirkuk, Iraq on 20 October 2017 [Ali Mukarrem Garip/Anadolu Agency]

An Iraqi military delegation is preparing to take control of the Kurdistan region’s border with Syria, an Iraqi military statement said today.

The delegation, headed by the Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Othman Al-Ghanmi, is visiting the Fish-Khabur triangle formed by the Iraqi-Turkish-Syrian border, in the northwestern of the country, a statement from the Iraqi joint operation command in Baghdad said.

The visit aims to “control the international border”, it said, mentioning Iraq’s two crossings with Turkey and Syria, respectively Ibrahim Al-Khalil and Fish-Khabur. Iraqi officials told Reuters earlier today that Iraqi customs officials had taken control of the Ibrahim Al-Khalil main land crossing with Turkey.

Iraqi authorities have already taken control of the main land crossing with Turkey from the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), three Iraqi officials said today.

Read: Iraqi forces secures 40 oil wells in Nineveh province from Kurdish forces

One of the officials showed Reuters pictures of the Iraqi flag being raised at the border gate, where Iraqi and Turkish soldiers were deployed and Turkish flags also hoisted.

”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,” said one of the officials, border police captain Ali Abdul Ilah.

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.

There have been increased tensions between Baghdad and Erbil since the KRG held an independence referendum on 25 September whose result was overwhelming support for separation from Baghdad. The Iraqi government has deemed the vote unconstitutional.

Read: Kurdish Peshmerga blow up bridge to halt Iraqi forces

As a result, Iraqi forces launched an attack on all disputed areas, including oil rich Kirkuk, taking back control from Kurdish Peshmerga forces. They also closed Kurdish airspace to international flights and limited the semi-autonomous area’s controls over its sovereignty.

The move forced Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani to resign on Sunday, saying he will not extend his presidential term beyond 1 November.