Turkish, Iraqi forces start joint drill amid referendum crisis

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Turkish and Iraqi Armed Forces launch a joint military exercise on the Turkish-Iraqi border following a controversial referendum in northern Iraq, in Silopi district of Sirnak province, Turkey on September 26, 2017. Fatih Aktas / Anadolu Agency

A day after an independence referendum held by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Turkish and Iraqi armed forces launched a joint military exercise on the Turkish-Iraqi border, in the Silopi district of Turkey’s Sirnak province.

Iraqi forces arrived in Turkey on Monday evening to participate in a new phase of a military drill that Turkish forces began last week.

Despite warnings from the Baghdad administration and abroad, including from Ankara and Washington, the KRG held a referendum on Monday for a separate Kurdistan state in northern Iraq.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the Turkish armed forces could suddenly launch an operation one night in the region.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Monday issued a press release describing the independence referendum as “null” and “void” and said that Turkey does not recognize the referendum, which lacks international legitimacy.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Monday that Turkey would conduct a military operation in northern Iraq if the Turkmen population living there is targeted.

Soldiers hold Turkish and Iraqi flags during a joint military exercise near the Turkish-Iraqi border at Silopi district in Sirnak on September 26, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ILYAS AKENGIN

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