Turkey holds military drills on Iraqi border ahead of Kurdish referendum vote

Turkey holds military drills on Iraqi border ahead of Kurdish referendum vote
2 min read
18 September, 2017
With Erbil's Kurdish referendum vote just a week a way, Turkey is flexing its military might with drills on the border of Iraq.
Turkey is holding drills close to the Iraqi border [Getty-file photo]

Turkey launched military excercises close to the Iraqi border on Monday, just a week before as Iraqi-Kurdistan goes to the polls for a divisive independence referendum.

Around 100 military vehicles - including tanks - participated in drills on the border with northern Iraq, which come as fears the Kurdish goverment could announce its secession in coming weeks.

"Simultaneously with this exercise, counter-terrorism operations in the border region continue," a Turkish military statement said.

Turkey has warned Erbil of "a cost" if the vote goes ahead and of a possible "civil war" if Kurdish-Iraqis choose independence.

Iran has meanwhile threatened to rescind trade and security deals with the Kurdistan Regional Government, while Iraq's supreme court has ordered the suspension of the referendum.

Ankara has enjoyed relatively good relations with the Erbil government, but fear the referendum could encourage further unrest among Turkey's own sizeable Kurdish minority.

Turkey is expected to announce its official position to the vote on 22 September.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also due to meet the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the UN general assembly meeting this week.

The UN and US also oppose the referendum vote, which they fear could lead to a fresh outbreak in violence just as the campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq winds down.