Iranian, Iraqi government forces to hold joint border drills

Iranian, Iraqi government forces to hold joint border drills

Iranian, Iraqi government forces to hold joint border drills

Iran also closed its borders and stopped flights to Iraqi Kurdistan airports. A Kurdish official at the Turkish border crossing described the situation there as "tense".

Iraq's prime minister had on Tuesday ordered the northern Kurdish region to hand over control of its airports to federal authorities or face a flight ban, signalling a tough response to a landmark Kurdish independence referendum held the day before. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, said Saturday.

Kurdish leaders have said that would not automatically trigger a declaration of independence, but rather give them a mandate to start negotiations on secession with the central government in Baghdad and with neighbouring countries.

The flight ban was the first major step Baghdad has taken to express its outrage over the referendum.

"Based on the recent regional developments and the order of the department of border and counter-strike affairs of the Interior Ministry, global transport companies and drivers should avoid loading and carrying fuel products to and/or from the Kurdistan region of Iraq until further notice", the directive said.

The Kurdish peshmerga have been at the forefront of the campaign against Islamic State and been trained by NATO-member Turkey's military since late 2014.

Turkey has repeatedly threatened to impose economic sanction, effectively cutting their main access to global markets, and has held joint military exercises with Iraqi troops on the border.

U.S. officials on Friday declared that the independence referendum was illegitimate.

On Monday, Iraq's Kurdistan held a referendum on independence despite widespread calls for its cancellation.

For all this, the United States urged both Baghdad and Erbil - the Kurdish capital - "to calm down and put an end to reciprocal recriminations and threats".

Israel has been the only country to openly support Kurdish independence, with Netanyahu backing "the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own".

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ruled out any such talks.

Nearly 93 per cent of voters had cast ballots in favour of independence from Iraq.

"Territorial integrity and unity of Iraq".

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