February 21, 2018

Kurdish referendum: United Nations offers to help resolve Iraqi Kurds' independence crisis

30 September 2017, 03:24 | Christie Tate

Iraqi ban on flights to Kurdish capital Irbil begins Friday

Iraqi ban on flights to Kurdish capital Irbil begins Friday

Mr Abadi's office said on Thursday that Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had agreed to deal exclusively with the central government over the exports of crude oil.

Kurdistan is a autonomous region in northern Iraq.

"At the point we have arrived, the worldwide community should pursue a consistent, decisive and clear policy for the protection of Iraq's political unity and territorial integrity", he said.

Speaking in the central Turkish province of Corum, Yildirim said Turkey, Iran and Iraq were doing their best to overcome the crisis caused by the referendum with the minimum damage. But KRG officials said they would not obey the order.

Iraqi troops now in Turkey and Iran would start on Saturday morning to enforce control over the border crossings out of the Kurdish region, Iraqi officials told The Associated Press. It has flourished amid Iraq's civil war but may struggle to maintain investment if it is blockaded economically.

The Kurdistan Regional Government says the "referendum will give a mandate for talks to secede from Iraq, although Baghdad has already ruled out such talks".

Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi is leading efforts to bring Erbil and Baghdad to the negotiating table, calling on the United Nations to become directly involved.

On Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared Monday's referendum illegitimate.

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Nearly 93 per cent of Iraqi Kurds who took part in the referendum voted for independence and a formal split from Baghdad to form an autonomous Kurdish region.

"We would expect Turkey to continue to affirm it's opposition to the independence vote publicly, but on the other hand, not to take decisions that would harm its own interests", the diplomat said.

That's due to tensions over an independence referendum held this week in Iraq's Kurdish region and disputed territories.

A ban on global flights into Iraq's Kurdish region was being imposed on Friday after the Baghdad government retaliated against a vote for independence that has drawn opposition from foreign powers. Turkey told its citizens to leave northern Iraq before the ban came into force.

Most global carriers who fly to and from airports in the Kurdish region announced they would halt flights beginning tonight in line with the ban. As for the Turkish government, President Recep Tayyib Erdogan is enraged and warns that this "adventure" (the independence referendum) "can only have a dark end". Oil major Rosneft is increasing investment in Kurdistan and the Kurds have been developing strong ties with Moscow.

More than 92% of those who cast ballots voted for independence, a long-held dream for many Iraqi Kurds. It remains unclear what affect the vote could have on U.S. backing of Kurdish military groups in the fight against the so-called "Islamic State" group in Syria. However, Ankara has yet to impose any retaliatory measures. Baghdad has rejected talks. The 30 million Kurds are one of the biggest stateless ethnic groups in the world, but giving them all a national state would require dismantling Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria.

The Kurdistan militias of the Peshmerga took control of the region in 2014, after the Iraqi army fled ISIS fighters advancing towards the city.

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