Thursday 16 August 2018

Baghdad demands Iraqi Kurds 'cancel' vote

Turkey’s President Erdogan is hosting Vladimir Putin today. Photo: Reuters/Murad Sezer
Turkey’s President Erdogan is hosting Vladimir Putin today. Photo: Reuters/Murad Sezer

Ahmed Rasheed and Raya Jalabi

Baghdad piled pressure on Iraq's Kurds yesterday, demanding they cancel their overwhelming vote for independence while parliament urged the Iraqi central government to send troops to take control of vital oil fields held by Kurdish forces.

Stepping up efforts to isolate autonomous Kurdish-held northern Iraq, which backed secession in a referendum on Monday that angered neighbouring countries, Baghdad demanded that foreign governments close their diplomatic missions in the Kurdish capital, Erbil.

Final results released yesterday showed nearly 93pc in favour of independence, and 7.3pc against. More than 3.3 million people, or 72pc of eligible voters, took part in Monday's ballot, according to the electoral commission.

The referendum has fuelled fears of a new regional conflict. A delegation from Iraq's armed forces headed to neighbouring Iran to coordinate military efforts, apparently as part of retaliatory measures taken by the government in Baghdad following the vote.

Iran and Turkey also oppose any move towards Kurdish secession and their armies have started joint exercises near their borders with Iraqi Kurdistan in recent days. Iraq and Turkey have also held joint military drills.

Foreign airlines began suspending flights to Kurdish airports after the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority said international flights to Erbil and Sulaimaniya would be suspended at 1500 GMT yesterday.

Kurdish authorities rejected Baghdad's demands that they annul the referendum as a condition for dialogue and hand over control of their international airports.

Turkey, which has threatened to impose sanctions on the Kurds, said its border with northern Iraq remained open, although it may not remain so.

The number of trucks passing through had however decreased.

Fears

Home to the region's largest Kurdish population, Turkey has been battling a three-decade insurgency in its largely Kurdish southeast and fears the referendum will inflame separatist tension at home.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who have stressed the need for Iraq's borders to remain unchanged, will meet in Ankara today.

The Kurds consider Monday's referendum an historic step in a generations-old quest for a state of their own.

Iraq considers the vote unconstitutional.

Irish Independent

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