DUBAI • Iranian and Iraqi central government forces are to hold joint military exercises near their borders, Iran's state television reported yesterday, as part of Teheran's effort to support Baghdad after the Kurdish independence referendum.
State television quoted a military spokesman as saying the decision to hold the war games in the next few days was taken at a meeting of top Iranian military commanders, who also "agreed on measures to establish border security and receive Iraqi forces that are to be stationed at border posts".
"This meeting was in line with Iran's declared policies of respect for the integrity and preservation of the territorial integrity of Iraq and the request by the Iraqi government for Iran's cooperation for the establishment of central government authority on Iran-Iraq border terminals," the spokesman said.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has refused to hand over control of its border crossings to the Iraqi government, as demanded by Iraq, Iran and Turkey in retaliation for the independence referendum.
The Iraqi Defence Ministry has said it planned to take control of the borders "in coordination" with Iran and Turkey, without indicating whether Iraqi forces were to move towards the external border posts controlled by the KRG from the Iranian and Turkish side.
Iraq's Kurds overwhelmingly backed independence in last Monday's referendum, defying neighbouring countries which fear the vote could lead to renewed conflict.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday the Iraqi Kurdish authorities would pay the price for an independence referendum which was widely opposed by foreign powers.
"They are not forming an independent state, they are opening a wound in the region to twist the knife in," Mr Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party in the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE