Iran, Iraq plan joint military drills amid row with Iraqi Kurdistan



TEHRAN, Resala al-Sharkani and Farshid Motahari (dpa) - Iran plans to hold joint military exercises with Iraq on its border with the Iraqi Kurdish region, which angered Baghdad and Tehran by holding a unilateral independence vote earlier this week.
The manoeuvres will take place in coming days in three different areas along Iran's western borders with the northern Iraqi Kurdish region, an Iranian military spokesman was quoted by Tasnim news agency as saying on Saturday.



The spokesman said that after the "illegal" referendum for Kurdish independence, it was incumbent on Iran to protect its border with northern Iraq.
Iran has not recognized the referendum result and has offered its support to help Iraq maintain its territorial integrity.
Iran has also closed its border to northern Iraq and blocked the transport of oil from the Iraqi Kurdish region.
Kurdistan in northern Iraq held the referendum on Monday in defiance of international opposition. More than 92 per cent of those who cast ballots voted for independence, a long-held dream for many Iraqi Kurds.
The plebiscite also angered Iraq's neighbours - Turkey, Iran and Syria - who are concerned that it could encourage their own Kurdish minorities to splinter.
Baghdad has condemned the vote and on Friday imposed a ban on international flights from and to Kurdistan.
Flights would resume, Baghdad said, if the Iraqi central government assumes control of the Kurdish region's airports.
Kurdistan on Saturday repeated its refusal of the Iraqi demand.
"We will not allow even one single person from Iraq, from the Iraqi civil aviation or from the office of the [Iraqi] Council of Ministers to come to Erbil and Sulaimaniya international airports without our decision," Kurdistan's Minister of Transport Mawlood Bawa Murad said on Saturday.
"We are running the airports in full coordination with the Iraqi civil aviation," he told the Kurdish parliament.
The Iraqi authorities should know that Kurdistan remains a nation with or without an airport, Bawa Mura added, according to Kurdish news portal Rudaw.
He also called the ban "unlawful" and a "political punishment."
Baghdad has said that its demands that Kurdistan hand over its air and land entry and exit points were designed to regulate the movement of people and goods, and prevent smuggling.
The escalating dispute has triggered international concerns that it will distract attention from ongoing military campaigns against the Islamic State extremist militia in Iraq and Syria.
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Sunday, October 1st 2017
Resala al-Sharkani and Farshid Motahari
           


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