United Nations chief concerned about Iraqi Kurd referendum

by Abel Hampton September 26, 2017, 0:42
United Nations chief concerned about Iraqi Kurd referendum

Initial results are expected to be announced 24 hours after the vote. In Kirkuk, the epicenter of the territorial dispute, the governor imposed a nighttime curfew after the vote.

Polling stations are scattered across the three northern provinces of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan - Arbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk - as well as in disputed bordering zones such as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani's decision to include Kirkuk in a referendum on independence from Iraq was widely seen by the Arab and Turkmen communities as a move to consolidate Kurdish control over the multi-ethnic city.

"The Secretary-General expects that United Nations-mandated activities across Iraq, including in the Kurdistan region, will be allowed to continue unhindered".

"Iran and Turkey have warned the Kurds not to go ahead with the vote".

"Regardless of the results, the referendum, which is not in conformity with the current law in Iraq, is null and void for us, we call it illegitimate", Erdogan said in Istanbul.

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, KRG representative to the U.S., 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".

Kurdish officials say a "yes" vote will send a message Baghdad can not ignore, paving the way for negotiations aimed at a peaceful exit.

Iran and Turkey, which both worry it will stoke separatist aspirations among their own sizeable Kurdish minorities, were also increasing pressure on Iraq's Kurds, with Ankara saying it would shut its border and threatening to block key oil exports. These areas also have large non-Kurdish populations.

President Tayyip Erdogan will discuss with Tehran their response to the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum when he visits Iran next week with the Turkish chief of staff, Yildirim said on Monday, in an interview broadcast on multiple Turkish television channels. "We can suddenly step in one night", he stressed.

Asked about the referendum, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Monday: "We hope for a unified Iraq to annihilate ISIS and certainly a unified Iraq to push back on Iran".

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