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Iran is cooperating with Iraq in building pressure on Iraqi Kurds [File: A Kenara/AFP/Getty Images]

Iran and Iraq to hold joint border drills

Military exercises to take place near Iran’s border with Iraqi Kurdish region in response to ‘illegitimate’ referendum.

The Iranian and Iraqi armies will hold joint drills at several crossings on Iran’s border with the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region, according to officials.

The announcement on Saturday came amid rising tensions in the wake of a controversial secession referendum in Iraq’s Kurdish region, where almost 93 percent of voters backed a split from Baghdad.

Monday’s poll was strongly opposed by Iraq and its powerful neighbours Iran and Turkey amid fears it would provoke separatists among their own Kurdish population.

“A joint military exercise between Iran’s armed forces and units from the Iraqi army will be held in the coming days along the shared border,” Masoud Jazayeri, Iranian army spokesman, said on Saturday after a high-level meeting of Iranian commanders.

“In the meeting, the territorial integrity and unity of Iraq and the illegitimacy of the independence referendum in northern Iraq were stressed again and necessary decisions were taken to provide security at the borders and welcome Iraq’s central government forces to take position at border crossings.”

Iraqi soldiers on Tuesday also took part in a Turkish military drill close to the Iraqi frontier.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has refused to hand over control of its border crossings to the Iraqi government, as demanded by Iraq, Iran and Turkey in retaliation for the referendum.

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The Iraqi defence ministry has said it planned to take control of the borders “in coordination” with Tehran and Ankara, without indicating whether Iraqi forces were to move towards the external border posts controlled by the KRG from the Iranian and Turkish side.

On Friday, Iraq also imposed a ban on international flights into its Kurdish region, ordering foreign airlines to suspend travel to the airports in the cities of Erbil and Sulaimaniyah.

Tehran has been cooperating with Baghdad in building pressure on Iraqi Kurds, notably by cutting all flights to and from the region before the vote.

On Friday, it also banned the transportation of refined oil products by Iranian companies to and from Iraqi Kurdish region.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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