September 28, 2017 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Baghdad: More then 92% of Kurds an ethnic minority in a semi autonomous region in northern Iraq has on Wednesday voted for independence, according to election monitors, in an overwhelming endorsement of a proposed split from Baghdad that has sparked increasing threats of air and land blockades that could be imposed as early as Friday.
The autonomous, quasi-sovereign Kurdish region north of Iraq is the most peaceful in the region. The result came after Iraq’s parliament authorised the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to send troops into areas disputed between Arabs and Kurds that were contentiously included in the ballot, media reports said.
The referendum passed with 92.73 percent support and turnout of more than 72 percent of the 3.3 million registered to vote. Hendrin Mohammed, the head of the Kurdish region’s election commission, declared that out of the 3 million valid ballots, 2.9 million were for independence and 224,464 were against. The rest were spoiled or disregarded, reads a quote from a report published in The Telegraph.
The euphoria on the streets of Erbil in recent days has been reportedly met with sharply increasing tension in the region, which is likely to escalate in the wake of the result.
However, Iraq has said it will not recognise the vote and that it was not willing to negotiate.
In the aftermath of the referendum Baghdad has purportedly threatened to close Kurdish airspace at 6pm (1500 GMT) on Friday and Turkey says it is considering whether to shut its frontier with Kurdistan and impose a trade ban.
The de-facto Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani, who called the referendum, believes the “Yes” vote will give them a mandate to start negotiations on secession with the central government in Baghdad.
Furthermore, Some Iraqi leaders have warned of military action, particularly over the fate of Kirkuk, and the national parliament approved the use of force as part of a 13-point resolution condemning the referendum.
But Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi has categorically maintained that “We don’t want a fight between Iraqi citizens.”
“We will impose the rule of Iraq in all of the areas of the KRG, with the strength of the constitution,” the Iraqi PM reportedly said.
“There will be no fighting between the sons of one country, but we will impose the law, you will see,” he further adds.
On the other hand Iran has threatened to use Iraqi militias, with whom it has strong influence, to wrest back control of the city, which is essential to Kurdistan’s fragile economy. As revenue sharing and oil deals have collapsed over the past four years, the Kurdish north has completed construction of a pipeline to Turkey, which has helped the Kurds export oil using its Mediterranean port.
Trade between Erbil and Ankara is thought to be close to £7.5bn a year, meaning Turkey would face a significant financial blow if it chose to close its borders. Officials in Erbil believe the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will pull back from his threats, but are less sure about the next moves in their standoff with Baghdad and Tehran, notes The Guardian in its report.
The Kurds were left without a state of their own when the Ottoman empire crumbled a century ago. Around 30 million are scattered in northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey and parts of Syria and Iran.
The autonomous region they control in Iraq is the closest the Kurds have come in modern times to a state. It has flourished, largely remaining at peace while the rest of Iraq has been in a continuous state of civil war for 14 years, reports The Independent.
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