ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - The Turkish army on Monday announced that its ground forces had begun staging a military exercise in the Silopi-Khabour area of the Kurdish province of Sirnak on the border with the Kurdistan Region.
A press release on the general staff's website said the drill was simultaneously underway with "anti-terror" operations in the area against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) guerrillas, which have been fighting for decades for greater Kurdish rights.
Commercially, Khabour serves as a crucial border crossing between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey, where billions of dollars' worth of goods pass through annually.
There was no further information or any other details provided, such as the size of the drill in terms of the geographic zone it covered, nor the number of troops participating.
Ankara's maneuver comes as the Kurdistan Region is gearing up to hold a referendum next Monday on whether to secede from Iraq.
Although the Turkish government has not spoken of any possible military action to disrupt the Sep. 25 vote it strongly opposes, its far-right allies have called for a declaration of war.
The drill in Sirnak highlights the Turks' continued deployment of troops, armored vehicles, and weapons to the border westward with the Kurdish region of Afrin in northern Syria.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday vowed not to let Kurdistan move ahead with its plan for independence, telling the Kurdish authorities to "wait for his Friday national security council meeting's result" to know what his country's reaction would be.
Kurdistan's President Masoud Barzani and the Region's high electoral committee have announced that the referendum, approved by Parliament, would go on as planned despite robust pressure from the US-led Western camp and regional powers in Ankara and Tehran.
Army chief Hulusi Akar over the weekend met in Albania's capital of Tirana with his US counterpart Joseph Dunford and told Americans who militarily back Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria fighting the Islamic State (IS) that Turkey would not allow the formation of a "Kurdish corridor" in its south.
Ankara is fearful the Kurds' secession from Iraq, as well as their fledgling autonomy in Syria, would embolden similar demands by Kurds at home and lead to the creation of a Greater Kurdistan which also saddles large swaths of territory in Turkey and Iran.
Editing by G.H. Renaud