Iraq's Kurdish Region Votes In Controversial Independence Referendum

26 September 2017, 12:19 | Isaac Mcdaniel

Franklin Templeton ME’s Dino Kronfol discusses his outlook for crude for 2018

Franklin Templeton ME’s Dino Kronfol discusses his outlook for crude for 2018

On August 29, 22 of the 24 councilors present in the 41-member Kirkuk council voted in favor of holding the Kurdish independence referendum.

But the United States has always been opposed to Kurdish moves towards independence, fearing it could lead to the break-up of Iraq and bring even more instability to an already volatile Middle East. In Kirkuk, the epicenter of the territorial dispute, the governor imposed a nighttime curfew after the vote.

In the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, Kurds sang and danced as they flocked to polling stations. So far, 136 global observing teams, 142 worldwide media outlets, and 35 global individual observers have taken part in this process, Sherwan Zrar, the spokesperson of Kurdistan's Independent High Referendum and Electoral Commission (IHREC) told Rudaw on Saturday.

Iraqi Kurds have voted in an independence referendum opposed by the central Iraqi government.

Kurdish leaders say if Iraq's Kurdish region votes "Yes", it'll give them a mandate to negotiate secession from Iraq.

Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, a top military adviser to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, said Iran regarded the referendum as "treason" against the Iraqi Kurds.

He also pledged to start negotiations with Baghdad officials as soon as the result of the votes is known.

In a strongly worded statement, Turkey said on Monday that it does not recognise the referendum and declared its results would be "null and void".

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However, it is created to give Masoud Barzani, who heads the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), a mandate to negotiate the secession of the oil-producing region.

The regional government has always been at odds with Baghdad over disputed territories like the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which are controlled by Kurdish forces but outside their autonomous zone.

The referendum has raised alarm in Iraq's neighbours - Turkey, Iran and Syria - over concerns it could encourage their own Kurdish minorities to break away. These areas also have large non-Kurdish populations.

"The land borders between Iran and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq are open and these borders have not been closed", the ministry said, adding that only air borders between Iran and this region were now closed. He also added: "We could arrive suddenly one night".

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.

"Only through independence can we secure a future where we will not have the past atrocities", he said.

Even though the vote is nonbinding, the Kurdish leadership sees it as a way to send a signal to Baghdad about the region's desire for independence.



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