Turkish, Iranian commanders agree on military cooperation against threats

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A handout picture provided by the Iranian Presidency on October 2, 2017 shows President Hassan Rouhani (R) posing for a picture with Turkish Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar (L) and Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces, General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri (R), in the capital Tehran. / AFP PHOTO

Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar said on Monday that Turkey and Iran will develop military cooperation against current threats and risks, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Monday.

After a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Maj. Gen. Muhammad Bagheri, at the Iranian General Staff Office, the two commanders made a joint statement to the press. Underlining the fight against terrorism and border security, Akar said: “In addition to our political and economic relations we are developing our military relations. In particular, we have come to a mutual agreement on fighting terrorism and hence border security in the coming days.”

Bagheri said they discussed threats facing the two countries and developed a common stance towards the “illegitimate” independence referendum held by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq. “We [Iran and Turkey] have common views on the territorial integrity of Iraq and the rejection of the [KRG independence] referendum,” he said, adding, “We exchanged views on the fight of the Iraqi and Syrian armies against the so-called Islamic State [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, ISIL] and issues regarding the urgent maintenance of peace and security in these countries.”

Akar’s visit came amid regional tension resulting the from KRG’s independence referendum, which took place last Monday. Turkey, İran and Iraq have refused to accept the results of the referendum, which was approved by 92 percent of the Kurdish electorate.

Iran has the second largest Kurdish population — approximately 10 million — in the Middle East, mainly located in areas adjacent to Turkey and Iraq.

While Turkey and Iraq have launched joint military maneuvers in Turkey’s border areas with the Iraqi Kurdish region, Iran declared that it had closed its border gates and halted air traffic to and from Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

The visit follows a Turkish-Russian-Iranian deal last month in which the three agreed to deploy observers to the boundaries of a de-escalation zone in the Idlib region of northern Syria, which is under the control of Islamist militants.

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