Baghdad regains Habur border gate from the KRG, with Turkey’s help

Turkish and Iraqi troops some holding their national flags participate in a ceremony at the Habur/Ibrahim Khalil border crossing with Iraq, near Silopi, southeastern Turkey, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, in a speech, said that the border crossing was handed over to authorities of the Iraqi central government this morning. (DAP)
Updated 31 October 2017
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Baghdad regains Habur border gate from the KRG, with Turkey’s help

ANKARA: Iraq and Turkish army forces gained control of the Habur border gate, also known as the Ibrahim Al-Khalil border gate on the Iraqi side, from the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and raised the Iraqi national flag.
State-run Anadolu Agency reported that Iraqi military forces were deployed at the Ibrahim Al-Khalil crossing in Iraqi territories, alongside Turkish forces, after making a joint drill in Turkey’s southeastern town of Silopi.
Iraqi Chief of General Staff Osman Ganimi thanked Turkish military officers and said: “We will be stronger as long as we stand together,” according to Anadolu Agency.
Turkey has a trade volume of $8 billion with Iraq that passes through the Habur border gate, currently the main passage between the two countries.
Speaking to the ruling AK Party politicians at the parliament, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed that Habur border gate had been handed over to the Iraqi central government by the KRG without any problem.
Yildirim also said that from now on the border crossing will be under the control of officials from Turkey and the Iraqi central government, while the transportation will be still carried out on the current route, but he added that Ankara would prevent KRG officials from taking racketeering from the trucks and imposing illegitimate taxes across the border.
After completing the necessary security reinforcements and feasibility studies, Turkey and Iraq are expected to open a second border gate in the near future, as an alternative border crossing that will pass through the Iraqi town of Tal Afar.
Mete Sohtaoglu, an Istanbul-based researcher on the Middle East, said the handover on Tuesday was initially aimed at gaining control of the border region.
“But, at the later phase, the Turkish army may be deployed across the border or on the Iraqi part of the border,” he told Arab News.
Sohtaoglu also expects a new joint operation between Tehran, Baghdad and Ankara in the region.
“A joint operation against those under the umbrella of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and its military wing the People’s Defense Forces is looming on the horizon, particularly in Sinjar in northern Iraq. The unfolding military mobility in the region can be read as the gradual implementation of a bigger plan toward the region,” he added.
“The Iraqi national army is also deployed in a way to ensure the security of the second border gate between Turkey and Iraq. But what is interesting is that Iranian militia under the Iraqi national army are kept out of Turkish borders,” Sohtaoglu underlined.


Thousands head home in Syria’s Idlib after deal, says monitor

Syrian children play in Morek, a town in the northern countryside of Hama province in neighboring Idlib province to the north, on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 36 min 53 sec ago
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Thousands head home in Syria’s Idlib after deal, says monitor

  • At a camp for the displaced in the town of Atme on the Turkish border on Tuesday, dozens of Syrians held up banners welcoming the agreement
  • As airstrikes intensified earlier this month, the looming threat of a Russian-backed assault had prompted tens of thousands of civilians to flee areas near the front line.

BEIRUT, MOSCOW: Thousands of residents of Syria’s last major opposition bastion Idlib headed home within 48 hours of the announcement of a deal to avoid a government offensive to retake it, a war monitor said on Wednesday.

As airstrikes intensified earlier this month, the looming threat of a Russian-backed assault had prompted tens of thousands of civilians to flee areas near the front line.

But the announcement of an agreement between Russia and opposition supporter Turkey to create a demilitarized buffer zone along the front line as the first step in a wider settlement prompted many to head home, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Around 7,000 people have returned to their towns and villages since the announcement of the deal on Monday, especially in the southeast of Idlib and the north of (neighboring) Hama,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

At a camp for the displaced in the town of Atme on the Turkish border on Tuesday, dozens of Syrians held up banners welcoming the agreement.

“We will return, God permitting,” said one.

“Thank you to our Turkish brothers,” said another, signed by the people of a town in the north of Hama province that had been bombarded in recent weeks.

One of the demonstrators, Marhaf Al-Jadou, said he was tired of running from the shelling and airstrikes.

“Enough of being displaced and sitting in tents. We want to return to our homes and our children to their schools,” he said.

The UN has given cautious backing to the Russian-Turkish agreement.

It “will allow for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and for the saving of civilian lives,” the UN humanitarian coordinator in Syria, Ali Al-Zaatari, said on Tuesday.

The civil war in Syria has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions more since it erupted with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.

Around half of the three million residents of the rebel zone around Idlib have fled from other parts of Syria recaptured by government forces in previous offensives.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the military’s combat experience gained in Syria has helped develop new weapons systems.

Russia has waged a campaign in Syria since September 2015, helping turn the tide of war in favor of Assad. The Russian military has used the conflict to test its new jets, cruise missiles and other weapons in combat for the first time.

Speaking on Wednesday at a meeting focusing on military industries, Putin said that new Russian weapons excel their foreign equivalents.

Putin singled out the new Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Su-57 fighter jet, the S-500 air defense system and the Armata battle tank, which are set to enter service in the coming years.