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Turkey conducting drills on Iraqi border amid KRG referendum crisis

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The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) issued a press release on Monday saying that the military had started conducting drills in the Silopi/Habur region on the Turkish-Iraqi border, which is seen as a warning to Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani to deter him from holding a referendum on independence.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday reiterated his opposition to the upcoming referendum on independence to be held by the KRG in northern Iraq, criticizing KRG President Barzani for a contradiction in his relations with Turkey.

“You ask for help during your difficult times and get all sorts of support, but when it comes to dividing Iraq you go your own way,” said Erdoğan during a press conference at İstanbul Atatürk Airport before leaving for the UN General Assembly in New York.

Strongly criticizing Barzani’s statements saying that they had decided to hold a referendum, Erdoğan said Turkey has a similar perspective to Baghdad about the referendum.

“We will hold a meeting with Mr. [Iraqi Prime Minister Haider] al-Abadi. As far as we can see, we have a similar perspective. What is that perspective? The unity of Iraq,” added Erdoğan.

Commenting on the referendum Erdoğan said on Friday night that Barzani would better understand Turkey’s position after a National Security Council (MGK) meeting that has been rescheduled for Sept. 22 due to the Kurdistan referendum.

Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım asked Barzani to change his decision to hold a referendum before it is too late, the Karar daily reported.

Underlining that Turkey had warned the KRG about holding an independence referendum, which is also opposed by the Iraqi central government, Iran, the US and Britain, Yıldırım said: “We are asking Barzani nicely. Stop this wrong decision while there is still time.”

Referring to the fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Yıldırım argued that the referendum would create more problems for Kurds in the region.

“Turkey is against any step that will change the territorial integrity of Iraq and the federal nature of Iraq’s constitution. … We would not like to reach the stage of imposing sanctions, yet if there is an eclipse of reason, the steps Turkey will take are obvious. “

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