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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Turkey army conducts military drill at Iraq border, army says

The drill came after Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim said the planned September 25 referendum was an issue of national security, and warned that Ankara would take any necessary steps in response

Supporters of Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) shout slogans during a protest against the Kurdish independence referendum in northern Iraq, in Istanbul on September 17, 2017. Kemal Aslan / Reuters
Supporters of Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) shout slogans during a protest against the Kurdish independence referendum in northern Iraq, in Istanbul on September 17, 2017. Kemal Aslan / Reuters

Turkish armed forces began a military drill at the Iraqi border on Monday, the army said, a week ahead of a referendum on Kurdish independence in northern Iraq which Ankara has asked to be called off.

The drill came after Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim said the planned September 25 referendum was an issue of national security, and warned that Ankara would take any necessary steps in response.

Turkey, the United States and other countries have advised authorities in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to cancel the vote, worrying that it will create tensions which will distract from the war on ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

On Sunday, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres also called on the Kurdistan Regional Government to scrap the referendum, saying any dispute between Baghdad and the KRG should be resolved through dialogue and "constructive compromise".

With the largest Kurdish population in the region, Turkey also fears a "Yes" vote would fuel Kurdish separatism in its south-east, where militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) have waged an insurgency for three decades.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday he will meet Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi this week to discuss their concerns about the referendum.

In a statement, the military said its operations targeting militant groups in the Iraq border region would continue at the same time as the drill.

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Read more:

Military intervention possible in Kurdish independence, Iraqi PM says

US urges Iraqi Kurdish region to call off independence referendum

Iraqi Kurd president says ties with Baghdad are cut over sacking of Kirkuk governor

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