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

Turkish Army vehicles are driven away in a convoy at the Habur/Ibrahim Khalil border crossing with Iraq, near Silopi, southeastern Turkey on Tuesday, October 31, 2017. (DHA-Depo Photos via AP)
Updated 31 October 2017

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

ANKARA: On early Tuesday (Oct. 31), 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.


Turkey tries to shed light on White Helmets founder’s death

Updated 6 min 45 sec ago

Turkey tries to shed light on White Helmets founder’s death

ANKARA: Turkish officials were performing an autopsy and other procedures Tuesday as they tried to understand how a former British officer who helped found the White Helmets volunteer aid group in Syria died.
James Le Mesurier’s body was found near his home in Istanbul early Monday by worshippers on their way to morning prayers. Turkish police believe he fell to his death from his home and are investigating the circumstances. Last week a top Russian official had claimed he was a spy, something Britain strongly denies.
The Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office said an autopsy and other procedures were underway at Istanbul’s Forensic Medicine Institute to determine “the exact cause” of his death. It also said police were still in the process of gathering security camera recordings near the scene and assessing them.
Earlier, Istanbul governor Ali Yerlikaya told reporters: “Our chief prosecutor’s office, our police are engaged in multifaceted efforts to shed light on the incident.”
Le Mesurier was the founder and CEO of May Day Rescue, which established and trained the White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defense, a group of local humanitarian volunteers.
The group, which has had more than 3,000 volunteers in opposition-held areas, says it has saved thousands of lives since 2013 and documented Syrian government attacks on civilians and other infrastructure. The group has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but has not won.
Last week, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Le Mesurier of being a former British agent working in the Balkans and the Middle East. She alleged he had “been spotted all around the world, including in the Balkans and the Middle East.”
Karen Pierce, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, denied those allegations Monday, saying “the Russian charges against him, that came out of Foreign Ministry that he was a spy, are categorically untrue.”
She also said Britain would be “looking very closely” at the Turkish authorities’ investigation into Le Mesurier’s death.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported that he was 48 and had moved to Turkey with his wife four years ago.