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Iraqi Authorities Take Control of Main Border Crossing with Turkey

A military drill, started on September 18, conducted by Turkish Armed Forces continues near Habur border gate, on Turkish-Iraqi border in Silopi district of Sirnak province, Turkey on October 21, 2017. (Photo by Mehmet Demirhan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

BAGHDAD/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Iraqi authorities have taken control of the main land crossing with Turkey from the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), three Iraqi officials said on Tuesday.

One of the officials showed Reuters pictures of the Iraqi flag being raised at the border gate, where Iraqi and Turkish soldiers were deployed and Turkish flags also hoisted.

”We have raised the Iraqi flag over the border crossing with Turkey today and it is officially under the full control of the Iraqi government,” said one of the officials, border police captain Ali Abdul Ilah.

However, Kurdish regional authorities denied the crossing had been handed over.

“Negotiations are still ongoing,” said a Kurdish official in the Kurdistan regional capital Erbil.

Iraq’s entire Turkish border is located within the autonomous Kurdish region. Iraq has demanded control of all border crossings since the Kurds staged an independence referendum last month, which Baghdad considers illegal.

In the past two weeks, Iraqi forces retaliating for the secession vote have also recaptured most disputed territory held by the Kurds outside their autonomous region, including the oil city of Kirkuk, which Kurds had held since 2014.

In Ankara, Turkish security forces said that Turkish and Iraqi soldiers were heading to the Ibrahim al-Khalil crossing in the border area of Fish-Khabur, or Habur in Turkish. Fish-Khabur is also the site where an oil pipeline carrying Iraqi oil for export at Turkish ports crosses the frontier.

The handing over of the crossing to the Iraqi authorities came after talks Friday, Saturday and Sunday to resolve the conflict between the central government and the Kurds.

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