By Sarp Ozer
Turkey and Iraq will launch a joint military exercise on the Turkish-Iraqi border on Tuesday following a controversial referendum in northern Iraq, according to the Turkish military late Monday.
Turkey started its military manoeuvers in southeastern Silopi region on Sept. 18, a week ahead of the referendum on independence in northern Iraq.
On Monday, Iraqis in areas held by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) -- and in a handful of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad – voted to decide whether to secede from Iraq.
Along with Baghdad, Turkey, the U.S., Iran and the UN have all spoken out against the poll, saying it will only distract from the ongoing fight against Daesh and further destabilize the region.
In a brief statement on its official website, the Turkish General Staff said the third phase of the military exercise will start on Tuesday jointly with the Iraqi military in the Habur border gate, also known as Ibrahim Khalil border crossing, on the Turkish-Iraqi border in Silopi district of Sirnak province.
The area sits to the north of the Syrian and Iraqi borders and contains the Habur border crossing, which provides the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq with its main access point to the outside world.
Across the Syrian frontier from Silopi lies territory controlled by the PKK/PYD. Counter-terrorism operations targeting the PKK on the Turkish side of the border are ongoing, the statement said.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by the EU and U.S. as well as Turkey, although only Turkey has designated the PKK/PYD as a terror group in Syria, where it is used by the U.S.-led coalition to fight Daesh.