Turkey holds military drill on Iraqi border before Kurdish vote: army

Reuters – Turkish armed forces carried out military exercises at the Iraqi border on Monday, the army said, a week ahead of a referendum on Kurdish independence in northern Iraq which Turkey wants canceled.

Around 100 military vehicles, mostly tanks, took part in the drill near the Habur border gate, a crossing point into Iraq, the private Dogan news agency said. Vehicles carrying missiles and howitzers also participated.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said the planned Sept. 25 referendum is an issue of national security, and warned that Turkey will take any necessary steps in response.

Turkey, the United States and other Western powers have urged authorities in the semi-autonomous region to cancel the vote, concerned that it could create tensions and distract from the war on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

With the largest Kurdish population in the region, Turkey fears that a “Yes” vote would fuel separatism in its southeast, where militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have waged an insurgency for three decades.

Turkey has not spelt out what response it might take if the referendum goes ahead. It has brought forward meetings of the cabinet and its national security council to Friday, three days ahead of the vote, to look again at the situation.

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that he will meet Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi this week in New York to discuss concerns about the referendum.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans and Richard Balmforth