Kurdish referendum: Iraq tense ahead of polls, Iran blocks all Kurdistan flights

Kurdish referendum: Iraq tense ahead of polls, Iran blocks all Kurdistan flights
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Kirkuk, Iraq: Ahead of the polls, hundreds of protestors demonstrated in eastern Iraq against the Kurdish referendum. This referendum is for the secession of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region.

According to the report published in Al Jazeera, protestors gathered outside the Baquba city council on Sunday and demanded a ban on the polls.

It is also reported that this non-binding referendum may results in Iraqis in areas under the control of the Kurdish Regional Government.

Iraq’s neighbours Iran and Turkey strongly oppose the referendum, as both have their own Kurdish minorities and fear the vote will stoke separatist aspirations at home. Tehran upped the pressure on Sunday, saying it had blocked all flights to and from Kurdistan at Baghdad’s request. Washington and many Western countries had called for the vote to be postponed or cancelled, saying it would hamper the fight against the Islamic State group.

Ahead of referendum, violence also broke out, on Saturday, four Iraqi Kurdish soldiers were killed in the province of Kirkuk and seven other troops were injured in a blast near capital Baghdad.

Baghdad partnership ‘failed’, vote to go ahead: Iraq Kurd head

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, on the eve of a disputed independence referendum, said that his people’s “partnership with Baghdad has failed” and urged them to go to the polls. “We have reached the conclusion that independence will allow us not to repeat past tragedies,” he told a news conference in Arbil, capital of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan in northern Iraq.

“The partnership with Baghdad has failed and we will not return to it,” said Barzani, who has resisted pressure from the central government, neighbouring states and Washington to call off Monday’s referendum and to negotiate a new deal.

He urged “all Kurds to vote in peace from tomorrow”.

“The referendum is the first stage of Kurdistan giving its opinion. After that, a long process will begin,” the Kurdish leader said.

“The referendum is not for defining borders or imposing a fait accompli. We want a dialogue with Baghdad to resolve the problems, and the dialogue can last one or two years,” Barzani said, in reference to disputed zones such as oil-rich Kirkuk.

Barzani said he hoped Turkey, a strong opponent of the referendum, would not close its border with Iraqi Kurdistan, warning that both sides would emerge “losers”.

Talking about the risks of violence, he said: “We never think of armed conflict but we are ready for everything. We have all the love for the Iraqi army and we are brothers.

“We expect reactions from one side or another but we are convinced that whatever the risk and the price, it’s better than waiting for a dark outcome.”

With inputs from AFP

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