Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Turkey's Erdogan threatens Iraqi Kurds with army

What you need to know about the Kurdish referendum History at their fingertips: Iraqi Kurds celebrate in historic vote the US and UK didn't want to see
Andrew Cummings | 26 September, 2017, 00:45

Voting closed at 6pm local time (16:00 GMT) on Monday, and the final results are expected to be announced within 72 hours.

Voters were asked to tick either Yes or No on the ballot asking them just one question in Kurdish, Turkish, Arabic and Assyrian: "Do you want the Kurdistan Region and Kurdistani areas outside the (Kurdistan) Region to become an independent country?"

Iran has a large Kurdish minority around its Iraqi border, some of whom have called for independence.

In the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, Kurds sang and danced as they flocked to polling stations.

The historic poll, which is nonbinding, took place in three northern Kurdish provinces of Iraq, as well as in disputed areas such as the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. An overwhelming "Yes" outcome is expected, but Kurdish officials have said there are no plans for an immediate declaration of independence.

"The land border between Iran and the Kurdistan region of Iraq is open", the ministry said in a statement. "The moment we shut the valve, that's the end of it", Erdogan said.

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, KRG representative to the USA, says that while the result is non-binding for the Iraqi government, it is "binding" for the Kurdish leadership "to follow the will of the people".

Turkey later took the Rudaw TV channel off its satellite service TurkSat, a Turkish broadcasting official told Reuters.

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An armed conflict between Iraq and the Kurds would pit two close US allies against each other and detract from their war against the Islamic State group.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has urged the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to be cool-headed when taking measures against the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over a planned referendum on independence, after the Turkish parliament voted to extend by a year a mandate authorizing the deployment of Turkish troops on foreign soil.

Tehran has also increased pressure, announcing on Sunday it had blocked all flights to and from the region at Baghdad's request.

"I'm so happy I could take part in this independence vote during my lifetime", he added.

The United States has strongly opposed the move, saying it could destabilize the region.

Tehran supports Shi'ite Muslim groups who have been ruling or holding security and government positions in Iraq since the US -led invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Ankara was working on the details of sanctions against the Iraqi Kurds.

"We are supporting the Kurds", he said.

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