Turkey has not yet moved to take control of Iraq's borders under the control of the KRG. But a senior diplomat warns that it could still be possible.

Joint military exercises between Iraqi and Turkish forces are part of the preparations if the need arises to use force to take control of border posts under KRG control. (AA)
Joint military exercises between Iraqi and Turkish forces are part of the preparations if the need arises to use force to take control of border posts under KRG control. (AA) (AA)

Iraq is prepared to use force to take back control of its border crossings from Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) forces and says that joint-military exercises with Turkey are a preparation for possible forceful takeover of KRG-controlled border crossings.

Iraq's ambassador to Turkey, Dr Hisham Al Alawii, speaking at a press conference in the capital city of Ankara on Monday, insisted that all border posts as well as airports had to come under the control of the central government.

"If required, the prime minister has made it clear that he is willing and has the authorisation to use force if required," said Alawii.

"There has been some joint exercises by the Iraqi forces and the Turkish forces near the border. And that was in preparation for forcing our control over the border gate."

Alawii said that the control of the airports and borders in the country was constitutionally mandated to be under the control of the central Iraqi government.

The KRG, which has control of the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq as well as some disputed areas, such as Kirkuk, has controlled border crossings and airports in the region. That includes the Habur border gate, the only official border crossing with Turkey, through which most of Iraq's trade with Turkey passes.

Iraq's warning over control of the border gates and airport follows a September 25 independence referendum held in the northern semi-autonomous and disputed regions of Iraq.

The referendum did not receive the recognition of the Iraqi central government or the wider international community, including neighbours Iran and Turkey. In fact both countries condemned the move and promptly started implementing various economic measures to force the KRG government led by Masoud Barzani to back down.

These measures included the banning of international flights to Erbil International Airport and Sulaimaniyah International Airport.

"We are very satisfied with the cooperation [of other countries] so far," said Alawii.

He said that a new border post which did not abut the semi-autonomous region was also under consideration.

"We are also talking about establishing of a new border gate between the two countries, which should be outside the borders of the Kurdistan region directly from the southern part of Turkey to Mosul, near the point of Fishkhabur."

However, speaking of further economic measures, Alawii spoke of oil exports from the region, most of which is exported through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which ends up in Turkey's Ceyhan port.

"The other important step that has to be taken, and it has major effects on the ability of the KRG to continue with its plan, is the export of oil and gas."

He pointed out that for the past 18 months the KRG has managed to export oil and that none of the revenues have gone to the Iraqi government, but straight to the KRG.

He said that Turkey and Iraq were still discussing how to stop those exports.

Late last month Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Turkey had the key to the KRG's oil revenues and could turn off the pipeline at any time. Turkey has yet to do so.

Referring to Turkish forces have been stationed in Bashiqa since before a recent offensive against Daesh in northern Iraq, Alawii said: "We were expecting the Turkish government to resolve this issue after the successful operation of liberating Mosul and Tal Afar."

Turkey deployed troops to Bashiqa following Daesh successes in Iraq and the fall of Mosul to Daesh in a bid to prevent Daesh being on its borders and to stop PKK affiliates from occupying areas vacated by retreating Iraqi forces.

PKK has been designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the EU and the US and been waging an armed campaign against Turkey since 1984. 

Turkey has also long complained of a PKK presence in town of Sinjar west of Tal Afar.

"There is some concerns about Sinjar. And the Iraqi government is committed to controlling Sinjar and not giving the PKK any chances to expand or presence in any part of Iraq," he said.

After the ambassador's press conference, Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim, who answered the questions of reporters at a separate event, stressed that it was not necessary to put the Bashiqa military camp on the agenda. "The Turkish soldiers in Bashiqa are based there in order to train the soldiers who fight against Daesh. Iraq is also fighting Daesh, and the Ninova Guards who have been trained in Bashiqa camp have played a big role in this fight, so that we don’t think this Bashiqa camp should be an issue. We have bigger problems, such as illegitimate referendum in the KRG," he added. 

A visit by Yildirim to Baghdad was also on the cards, the ambassador also said.

"Both sides agreed that there is a need for high level visits and talks. The visit will be very important for both sides to talk about the practical steps to deal with some of the key issues including the independence referendum," he said.

Source: TRT World