Tensions rise as Iraq Kurds defy Baghdad in historic independence vote

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

Guterres said he was "concerned about the potentially destabilizing effects of today's referendum in the Kurdistan region of Iraq", in a statement from his spokesman.

Both Turkey and Iran condemned the vote, fearing it would inspire their own sizable Kurdish minorities, and both have carried out military drills this week on the borders of Iraq's Kurdish region.

Also, Opposition Nationalist Movement Party leader Devlet Bahceli said Monday Turkey must pursue a comprehensive deterrence policy that includes the use of military force following Monday's controversial referendum in northern Iraq. Kousha wrote that with the Islamic State in retreat, the vote could plunge Iraq into more war, especially over the fate of disputed Kirkuk, which is controlled by the Kurds and also has significant Arab and Turkmen populations.

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.

The stations are dotted across the three provinces of Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk that form the Iraqi Kurdistan Region as well as in disputed bordering zones such as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

Iran's foreign ministry has insisted that its border with Iraqi-Kurdistan remains open, reversing an earlier claim that stated the crossing has been closed.

The State Department said last week the referendum would preclude the possibility of negotiations with the Baghdad central government, and present a high cost for "all Iraqis, including Kurds".

"Iran has blocked air traffic to this region but we are hopeful that the four neighbouring countries will block the land borders with Iraq too", he was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

Iraqi Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said he hoped to maintain good relations with Turkey and the referendum was not a threat to Ankara. "If the "Yes" vote wins, we will resolve our issues with Baghdad peacefully". "We are registering them on a daily basis and ready to register them through September 24", he said, explaining it was unexpected for this number of internationals to come and observe the referendum process.

In Sulaimaniya, a centre for political groups opposed to Barzani, queues at polling stations were shorter than in Erbil.

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