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Iraqi PM invites Turkish counterpart to visit Baghdad

IRAQI PM INVITES TURKISH COUNTERPART TO VISIT BAGHDAD

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Friday confirmed that his Iraqi counterpart, Haider al-Abadi, invited him to visit Baghdad in the wake of the Sept. 25 illegitimate referendum in northern Iraq.

Speaking to journalists after the Friday prayer in Ankara, Yıldırım said that exact date and content of the visit would be determined later. "This visit will surely be an important visit. So, preparations need to be made carefully," he added.

He said that Turkey did not want Kurdish or any other ethnic groups living in northern Iraq to get harm in case of any sanctions in the aftermath of the illegitimate referendum in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

The premier further stated if Baghdad decides to close all the borders, Turkey would respect the decision. "Iraq has surely a right to close here [Habur border gate]."

However, Yıldırım said Ankara's offer to Baghdad was to activate Ovakoy border gate, located on the west of the Habur border gate in Turkey's southeastern Sirnak province, in order to prevent any harm to Turkmen, Kurdish and Arab brothers and for trade and transportation activities.

"We've made this offer. We expect support from Iraq on this," he said. "I will be glad to meet with Mr. al-Abadi in order to discuss all these subjects broadly."

Yıldırım said that Turkey wants to further improve relations with the central government in Baghdad after the illegitimate referendum.

The two countries could have "comprehensive" cooperation in the fields of economy, defense, security and policy in the aftermath of the referendum, he noted.

He also signaled further precautionary measures against northern Iraq.

"Iraqi and our soldiers are also holding joint drill. We also have other precautions to take," he said. "They will come into force step by step as soon as the preparations complete."

Last month, Turkey's national flag carrier, Turkish Airlines suspended all flights to Erbil and Sulaymaniyah cities in northern Iraq in the wake of the referendum.

On Sept. 25, Iraqis in KRG-held areas -- and in several areas disputed between Baghdad and Erbil -- voted on whether to declare independence from Iraq.

According to results announced by the KRG, almost 93 percent of registered voters cast ballots in favor of independence.

The illegitimate referendum was heavily criticized by most regional and international actors, many warning that it would distract from Iraq's ongoing fight against terrorism and further destabilize the already-volatile region.

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