Kurdish official denies Iraqi forces control Turkey crossing
IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — A key border crossing between Turkey and Iraq’s northern Kurdish region remained under the control of Kurdish officials Tuesday despite reports of Iraqi troop movements on the Turkish side.
Abdul Wahab Mohammed, who heads the Kurdish border intelligence, says “no Iraqis have entered or taken over” the Ibrahim Khalil crossing.
Border crossings have become a contested issue after last month’s Kurdish independence referendum. Baghdad has demanded that all border control revert to federal authorities and has banned all international flights to and from the Kurdish region.
Mohammed says a senior Iraqi officer — Othman al-Ghanmi, the chief of staff to the Iraqi Army — only briefly met with Iraqi troops on Turkey’s side of the crossing. Iraqi troops are in Turkey for military drills.
Tensions remain high between Iraqi federal forces and Kurdish fighters after Baghdad-led forces retook the oil-rich city of Kirkuk from Kurdish control earlier this month. Low-level clashes have been reported throughout northern Iraq over the past two weeks.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday repeated his call for all border crossings to be handed over to federal authorities. He said “a committee is overseeing the redeployment of federal forces to areas taken under the control of the Kurdish region after 2003,” the year of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.