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Iraqi army takes control of Turkey border gate from Kurds: Turkish PM

Iraqi and Turkish soldiers wave flags at the Habur border gate between Turkey and Iraq in this still image taken from video on October 31, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrim says Iraqi army forces have taken control of a key border crossing with Turkey in the Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region after weeks of tensions between Baghdad government and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over last month’s non-binding independence referendum.

Speaking at the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s parliamentary group meeting in Ankara on Tuesday, Yildirim said Turkish officials will remain in control of the Habur border gate on the Turkish side of the border, while Iraqi authorities will be in the control of the Ibrahim Khalil gate on the Iraqi side from now on.

The Turkish prime minister noted that “There was no problem during the handover,” adding that transportation will continue on the current route.

“Those who take advantage of the route will be eliminated. Step-by-step checks and illegitimate taxes across the border will be removed,” he said.

The new practice will enable Ankara and Baghdad to boost bilateral trade, Yildirim stated.

Yildirim went on to say that Turkey and Iraq will open another border gate in the near future, as part of a route that would lead to the city of Tal Afar, located 63 kilometers west of Mosul and home to a predominantly ethnic Turkmen population.

A military convoy leaves the border compound at the Habur border gate between Turkey and Iraq in this still image taken from video on October 31, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

The referendum on secession of the Kurdistan region was held on September 25 despite strong opposition from Iraqi authorities, the international community, and Iraq's neighboring countries, especially Turkey and Iran.

On October 12, an Iraqi government spokesman said Baghdad had set a series of conditions that the KRG needed to meet before any talks on the resolution of the referendum crisis could start.

“The KRG must first commit to Iraq's unity. The local authorities in the [Kurdistan] region… must accept the sovereign authority of the federal government on… oil exports, [as well as] security and border protection, including land and air entry points,” the unnamed Iraqi official added.

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