Turkish Army Points Weapons at Iraq in Military Drill along Border

Turkish Army Points Weapons at Iraq in Military Drill along Border

Turkish military vehicles took up positions and pointed their weapons towards Iraq on Tuesday (September 19), a day after Turkish soldiers started a military drill along the Kurdistan Region’s border.

On Monday, around 100 military vehicles, mostly tanks, started a drill near the Habur border gate, a crossing point into the region. Tuesday's drills took place some 2 km from the Kurdistan Region’s border and around 1.5 km from the Habur border gate in the southeastern province of Sirnak, which remained active despite a kilometer-long queue.

The exercises came as Turkey, the central government in Baghdad and their shared neighbor Iran all stepped up protests and warnings about an independence referendum in the Kurdistan Region. Turkish military sources said the drill was due to run until Sept. 26, a day after the planned Kurdish referendum.

With the largest Kurdish population in the region, Turkey fears that a "Yes" vote would fuel separatism in its southeast, where the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have waged an insurgency for three decades.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said the planned September 25 referendum is an issue of national security, and warned that Turkey will take any necessary steps in response.

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that he will meet Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi this week in New York to discuss concerns about the referendum.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Saturday he’s prepared to intervene militarily if the Kurdistan independence referendum scheduled for September 25 results in violence.