Turkey, Iraq agree to open second border gate to bypass Kurdish region

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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi (R) shaking hands with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim as they pose during an official welcoming ceremony at the Cankaya Palace in Ankara. / AFP PHOTO

Turkey and Iraq agreed to open an alternate border crossing to the Habur gate, controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), during a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Ankara on Wednesday.

According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said during a joint press conference on Wednesday that Turkey would also help Baghdad gain control of the Habur border gate from the KRG.

Apart from this, we have spoken on the subject of opening a new route from the Faysh-Habur region, a bit west of Habur. Our Iraqi counterparts have responded positively. And we will work on opening this gate; we have decided on this,” Yıldırım said.

A second border crossing from Ovaköy into Iraq can be opened, but security should be maintained by Iraq and Turkey, Customs Minister Bülent Tüfenkçi told Anadolu separately on Wednesday.

Following a referendum held by the KRG on Sept. 25, Iraqi forces, which included the US-trained Counterterrorism Service and the Iranian-backed mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi, drove the KRG’s peshmerga from the oil-rich city of Kirkuk on Oct. 16 and took down the Kurdistan flag in the disputed areas and hoisted the Iraqi banner.

The attack by Iraqi forces ordered by al-Abadi followed weeks of punitive measures taken by Baghdad against Kurdistan in response to the independence referendum that saw 92.7 percent of the electorate voting to leave Iraq, despite Iraqi opposition.

Iraqi forces spearheaded by the Hashd al-Shaabi also entered downtown Shingal on Oct. 16 in the course of their advance on the disputed Kurdistani territories claimed by both Arbil and Baghdad.

Turkey welcomed the Kirkuk takeover by the Baghdad administration.

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