Turkish and Iraqi soldiers walk with Turkish tanks during a military drill in Silopi, near the Habur border gate with Iraq, southeastern Turkey, on Sept. 26, 2017, a day after the Kurdistan Region held a referendum on independence, a move which was strongly opposed to by Turkey and Iraq. AP photo
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - A high-level trilateral US, Iraqi and Turkish military meeting will be held this week in Turkey to discuss regional security concerns.
The meeting is scheduled to be held in Ankara on Thursday, according to Turkey’s General Staff.
The meeting will be attended by Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Othman al-Ghanimi, his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar, as well as the Commander of the US European Command (EUCOM) Curtis Scaparrotti and the Commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM) Joseph Votel, according to the statement.
Turkey officially is a part of EUCOM, but the country’s Incirlik air base has been heavily used by US and other international coalition militaries in the anti-ISIS war, given the country’s proximity to Iraq and Syria — countries which fall into CENTCOM's dominion.
“Turkey can count on NATO and the United States. The Alliance stands shoulder to shoulder with Turkey and is committed to partnering with them to promote security throughout the region,” Scaparrotti stated after meeting with Akar in 2016.
“Turkey is fundamental to security on our southern flank. It sits at the cross-roads of the many challenges we face in Europe, from the refugee crisis, to terrorism, to human trafficking,” Scaparrotti added.
Both Turkey and the United States have bases in Iraq.
Additionally, Turkey’s Habur border gate provides a land bridge for Iraq, and the nearby Fishkhabur gate has been used by the coalition to resupply its partnered ground forces in the fight against ISIS in northern Syria.
They will also attempt to defuse tensions over US support for the People's Protection Units (YPG), a mostly Kurdish militia which the United States has backed against ISIS in northern and eastern Syria, according to an Al-Monitor report.
The Iraqi and Turkish militaries began joint military operations on the Turkish side of the border with the Kurdistan Region in late September, and Iraqi officials have repeatedly expressed a desire to take control of all international border crossings including those manned by Kurdistan Region security forces.
The meeting comes less than a week after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared a total defeat of ISIS in Iraq on Saturday.