DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian and Iraqi central government forces are to hold joint military exercises near their borders, Iran’s state television reported on Saturday, as part of Tehran’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 which 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 added.
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 toward the external border posts controlled by the KRG from the Iranian and Turkish side.
Iraq’s Kurds overwhelmingly backed independence in Monday’s referendum, defying neighbouring countries which fear the vote could lead to renewed conflict in the region.
Iran, which has condemned the referendum as illegal, on Friday banned the transportation of refined oil products by Iranian companies to and from Iraqi Kurdistan.
Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Stephen Powell