Published: Tue, September 26, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

Iraq Kurds defy Baghdad in historic independence vote

Iraq Kurds defy Baghdad in historic independence vote

Iraqi Kurds headed to the polls September 25 to vote on an independence referendum despite continued strong opposition from neighboring Turkey and Iran, the broader global community and the Iraqi central government in Baghdad.

There were fewer billboards celebrating the referendum, reflecting resentment that a yes vote could be seen as a plebiscite for the Kurdish leader.

Washington and many Western countries have also called for its postponement or cancellation, saying it will hamper the fight against the Islamic State.

But with 30 million ethnic Kurds scattered across the region - mainly in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria - Tehran and Ankara fear the spread of separatism to their own Kurdish populations.

Turkey's Customs Minister Bulent Tufenkci said tight controls have been imposed on traffic at Habur border gate with northern Iraq.

KRG President Massoud Barzani has said a Yes win would not result in an automatic declaration of independence but would simply lead to further negotiations with Baghdad. "The moment we close the tap, then it's done".

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However, Iran's Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that the country's land border with the Iraqi Kurdistan Region remained open despite its independence referendum.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres voiced concern about the "potentially destabilizing effects" of today's referendum in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

The UN Security Council also warned last week that the referendum could destabilise the region.

Erdogan said a border crossing with Iraq had been closed in one direction and that Turkey would shut it entirely.

Iraq and other neighbours of the Kurds "have to understand that we have done this step by step", Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman told Al Jazeera. Counter-terrorism operations targeting the PKK on the Turkish side of the border are ongoing, the statement said. They have also argued over the sharing of oil revenues, with the Kurds exporting through a Turkish pipeline over objections from Baghdad.

Voting stations set up for the referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq have closed their doors, and the counting of votes has begun, according to the official supervising body.

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