Top Iraqi commander visits Turkey amid Kurdish referendum crisis

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Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Gen. Othman al-Ghanimi (C) makes soldier salute during official welcome ceremony prior to his meeting with Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar (L) at General Staff headquarters in Ankara, Turkey on September 23, 2017. Ercin Top / Anadolu Agency

The Iraqi army’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Othman al-Ghanmi, is paying a visit to Turkey on Saturday amid a crisis over an independence referendum to be held by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Sept. 25, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

According to the report, al-Ghanmi will meet with Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar at military headquarters in Ankara.

The two top commanders will talk about the KRG referendum, measures to preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq and the fight against terrorism.

Iraq’s neighbors and allies, including Turkey and the US, oppose the referendum, warning that it will trigger ethnic violence, create divisions in Iraq and undermine the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

As a warning to the KRG, Turkey last week launched a military drill in the Silopi/Habur region on the Turkish-Iraqi border. According to Anadolu, the Turkish army on Saturday increased the level of the drill with the participation of new units.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his US counterpart, Donald Trump, on Thursday reaffirmed their objection to the KRG’s independence referendum during their meeting in New York.

The Turkish Parliament is to hold an emergency session on Saturday to discuss a motion to extend a mandate allowing the government to conduct cross-border operations in Iraq and Syria.

 

Turkish soldiers and tanks take part in the Turkish Armed Forces’ military drill that began in the Silopi district near the Habur border gate on September 18, in Sirnak, Turkey on September 23, 2017, on the sixth day of the ongoing drill. Fatih Aktas / Anadolu Agency

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