Iraqi Kurds Vote in Independence Referendum

Peshmerga forces were seen waving Israel’s national flags in Erbil on Saturday

Peshmerga forces were seen waving Israel’s national flags in Erbil on Saturday

As Iraq's Kurds are rushing headlong into a vote for independence, neighbors and countries in the Middle East, including Iran and Turkey, were trying to persuade the Erbil government to cancel the referendum.

Speaking to media at the Esenboga Airport in Ankara, CHP head Kemal Kilicdaroglu said an important step is needed "to quickly unite the Iraqi central government, Turkey and Iran, and create a common solution to this problem".

Erdogan is expected to visit Iran on October 4.

Despite calls for postponement from the worldwide community, Iraqi Kurds voted today in defiance of threats from Baghdad, Ankara and Tehran.

A strong vote in favor of independence was expected, but the result will not be binding. Here is a look at what comes next.

"The Kurdish leadership now has the mandate to negotiate with Baghdad on an amicable separation, on a new relationship between Erbil and Baghdad", she told Al Jazeera from Washington, DC.

Voters were asked to tick either Yes or No on the ballot asking them just one question in Kurdish, Turkish, Arabic and Assyrian: "Do you want the Kurdistan Region and Kurdistani areas outside the (Kurdistan) Region to become an independent country?"

Oil pipelines would remain in operation, however.

The conflict has been largely peaceful until now, but in recent days both sides have threatened to use military force to protect their interests.

2 officers released from hospital after shooting in New Haven yesterday
Fearing for his safety, one of the officers then fired several rounds at the man, hitting him once in the upper chest. Monroe was taken to the hospital. "An assisting officer was also struck once in the lower torso area".

Iran and Turkey have sizeable Kurdish populations of their own and fear the vote will stoke separatist aspirations at home.

Erdogan said: "Our military is not (at the border) for nothing".

Turkey has several ways of pressuring the Kurds short of military intervention.

He pointed to Turkish military exercises now taking place on Turkey's border with the Iraqi Kurdish region.

"Let's see where - and through which channels - will they sell their oil. The moment we shut the valve, that's the end of it", Erdogan said. "The Kurds are hoping that Iraq will reopen talks", Jane said.

Kurds are relatively autonomous in Iraq - as Jane has reported, they "control the land borders with neighboring countries, elect their own parliament, maintain their own security forces (known as the peshmerga) and draft their own laws".

Against this backdrop, Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general, expressed concern on Monday about the potentially destabilising effects of the referendum, calling on Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to resolve differences through dialogue and compromise. Al-Maliki went further than al-Abadi in his condemnation of the referendum, calling it a "declaration of war".

The regional authorities organized the referendum without the consent of Baghdad.

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