Turkey-Iraq border still open but could close at any time, says Erdogan

Turkey-Iraq border still open but could close at any time, says Erdogan

It is no news that Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is considering to close the border station with Iraq. A thought that has become very intense espsecially after the Kurdish referendum, when pro-independence voices prevailed through their votes.

Now, not even a month on (the Kurdish independence referendum took place on September 25), the issue remains open. President Erdogan has not forgotten about the possibility of closing the border gate that enters from Southern Turkey to Northern Iraq (the specific border crossing, mostly known as the Habur border station, is controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government and is manned by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters) and keeps weighing his options. Diplomatic, military, geo-strategic and humanitarian developments in the region are of immense importance to the Turkish leader. So, he would never make a sloppy move on the chessboard.

But, things could and will change if Baghdad “continues to provide the humanitarian needs of northern Iraq,” said Erdogan (online, English edition of Hurriyet).

Only two days ago, when he was coming back from Poland, the president of Turkey left no room for doubts. “Our talks (with Iraq) on what we can do are continuing. If they (the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government) hand over the border gate to the central government, we’ll set the condition (that the central government) must meet all the needs of the people under the northern Iraqi administration. We have not yet closed the gates, but this could happen at any time.”

Ankara and Baghdad have not stopped debating on how they will deal with the continuously developing situation. This is why there is a possible visit of Turkish high officials, under Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, to Baghdad, on the table. The visit could happen soon in order for the two sides “to evaluate all issues together.”

Erdogan was asked also about the role of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) or Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi militia, a coalition of Shia militias largely financed and backed by Iran (but not only, as many believe, since there are two different yet co-existing currents within the PMForces). He was more than eloquent in his answer, saying that Turkey is not in cooperation with the group: “There is news that Hashd-i Shabi has seized the Sinjar and Makhmur regions. If this is real, then we might have to start new work with our counterparts.” (Hurriyet)…/IBNA

Habur photo: DHA