Iran, Iraq to stage joint drill on western borders

The holding of the referendum triggered a crisis in Erbil-Baghdad relations and made the central Iraqi government adopt tight measures to reclaim Iraq's sovereignty, including a ban on worldwide flights to Kurdistan's airports.

They will not enter the Kurdish region, but instead Iraqi customs administrators backed by the troops will set up control points just outside the Kurdish border stations, the officials said.

The biggest share of the approximately 30 million Kurds in the region live in Turkey, which for decades has battled the PKK Kurdish militant group fighting for independence within its borders.

General Masoud Jazayeri, spokesman for Iran's joint armed forces staff, said the maneuver will be held in the coming days in northwest Iran near the Iraqi Kurdistan border.

Monday's vote took place across the three northern provinces of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan - Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk - and in disputed border zones such as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

Iran has closed its airspace to Iraqi Kurdistan region upon the request of Iraq's central government.

The issue of borders and territorial control would be a major source of contention if Iraqi Kurdistan chose to move forward with independence.

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Iraq's military prepared Saturday to take control of the worldwide borders of the northern Kurdish region.

The move has come amid tension between Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan over the latter's decision to hold a referendum on Monday on whether to secede from Iraq. It also called for the deployment of forces to areas that had been under Iraqi government control before Islamic State (IS) forces captured Mosul in June 2014.

A no-fly zone, imposed by the United States after the 1991 Persian Gulf War and a failed Kurdish uprising, protected the Kurds for years in northern Iraq.

Urging both sides to find a calm end to vocal recriminations and threats of reciprocal actions the head of US diplomacy called on Iraqi Kurdish authorities to respect the constitutionally-mandated role of the central government.

So far, Iraq's central government has mandated that all global flights to and from Erbil in the Kurdistan Region be suspended and has warned that land borders might also be closed.

Turkey fears that the emergence of an independent Kurdish state on its border will stoke separatist feeling in its own Kurdish minority.

Also on Thursday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Turkey has agreed to deal only with Baghdad on oil exports from the self-ruled Kurdish region.


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