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article imageIraqi troops join Turkish military exercise near border

By AFP     Sep 26, 2017 in World

Iraqi soldiers on Tuesday took part in a Turkish military drill close to the Iraqi border on Tuesday, an AFP photographer said, a day after Iraq's Kurdish region held a vote on independence.

Despite warm relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Ankara has been fiercely opposed to the controversial non-binding vote and has threatened to enact a range of options from economic sanctions to military measures against the KRG.

The central Iraqi government in Baghdad has also refused to recognise the referendum.

The Turkish armed forces launched a military exercise with tanks last week in the southern Turkish province of Sirnak as Turkey stepped up its opposition to the poll.

The military continued the drill with reinforcements on Saturday, and said a third phase of the exercises would begin on Tuesday with units of the Iraqi army, who arrived on Monday.

The Turkish military gave no further detail on numbers.

Soldiers could be seen holding Turkish and Iraqi flags while on the move and on tanks during the exercise in the Silopi district, an AFP photographer said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cautioned the Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani against pushing for independence after the vote, saying such a move risked sparking an "ethnic war" in the region and said Turkey would consider its options.

"Airspace and ground (options) are all on the table," he said, appearing to refer to previous threats to close the border.

Erdogan on Monday warned the KRG of a cross-border operation by the Turkish army similar to that taken in northern Syria last year against the Islamic State group and Kurdish militants.

Recalling the lighting offensive last August, Erdogan said: "We did this with Euphrates Shield. All the options are on the table right now. In Iraq, when necessary, we will not shy away from taking these types of steps."

Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had declared before the vote that he would take "necessary measures" to protect the country's unity.

More about Iraq, Kurds, Referendum, Turkey, Military
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