Tehran, Ankara Weigh Response to KRG Vote

Turkey’s military chief said that in addition to political and economic cooperation, Tehran and Ankara have agreed to expand military ties, particularly concerning the counter-terrorism campaign and border security
Iranian and Turkish military chiefs attend a press conference in Tehran on Oct. 2.  Iranian and Turkish military chiefs attend a press conference in Tehran on Oct. 2.

Iran and Turkey's top military commanders on Monday conferred on how to respond to last week's independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, whose outcome poses a serious threat to the territorial integrity of neighboring Iraq.

Turkey's Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar arrived in Tehran a day earlier at the head of a top-ranking military delegation.

The independence poll and the two sides' cooperation on Syria were among major topics of Akar's discussions with his Iranian counterpart, Major General Mohammad Baqeri, ISNA reported.

The Turkish commander told a post-meeting press conference that the two countries are keen to develop military cooperation.

"In addition to the existing political and economic cooperation between the two countries, we are keen to expand bilateral military ties, particularly concerning the counter-terrorism campaign and security along our common borders and we have reached agreements," Akar said.  

Although its outcome is non-binding, the controversial Kurdish move on Sept. 25 has met the harsh criticism of Iraq's government, its neighbors, some western powers and the United Nations over the risk of escalating tensions in the already unstable region and undermining the campaign to dislodge the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group from Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Iran and Turkey, alongside Russia, have held months of discussions hosted by Kazakhstan under a trilateral mechanism they initiated to bring together the warring sides in Syria and negotiate a political solution to over six years of civil war in the conflict-ridden Arab country.

The three announced in a joint statement last month at the end of the sixth round of Astana talks that they finally agreed on a plan to set up de-escalation zones in Syria for six months.

Akar's visit reciprocates an August trip by Baqeri to Ankara, the first by an Iranian military chief in the past few decades, during which the Iranian commander met with a number of senior Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

  Joint Roadmap

Tehran is also due to host Erdogan on Wednesday, where the Turkish president said he and Iranian officials would further discuss, among other issues, a joint response to the secession vote, organized by Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government.

"My trip is aimed at negotiating a joint Iran-Turkey roadmap in response to the contentious issue of the independence of Iraq's Kurdistan and other matters, including the Astana negotiations," Erdogan told the Turkish Parliament on Sunday.

Turkey and Iran, both with sizable Kurdish minorities, have agreed with the Iraqi central government to consider counter-measures against the KRG's separatist move.

Tehran has declared a ban on direct flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan at the request of the Baghdad government, which has also called for a land blockade of the autonomous region by all neighboring countries.

Turkey has threatened sanctions, with Erdogan even hinting at a military intervention.

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