Iraqi Kurds Vote in Independence Referendum

Iraqi Kurds Vote in Independence Referendum

Iraqi Kurds Vote in Independence Referendum

The Kurdish region's president, Masoud Barzani, said the night before the vote that "we are ready to pay any price for our independence", according to The Associated Press.

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.

Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard also launched a military exercise in its northwestern Kurdish region, in a sign of Tehran's concerns over the vote.

Under Iraq's constitution, the government is obliged to comply with the parliamentary vote.

Kirkuk was essentially under the control of the Iraqi government before it was seized by ISIS three years ago, NPR's Jane Arraf reports.

The Kurdistan Region's referendum plan has also drawn large-scale criticism internationally.

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Turkey has also opposed the referendum and warned that the disintegration of Iraq has the potential to turn into a major global conflict.

Even though the vote is nonbinding, the Kurdish leadership sees it as a way to send a signal to Baghdad about the region's desire for independence.

On September 13, the Arab League rejected the plebiscite as an illegal measure that would pose further threats to security in the already volatile Middle East. That would be the realization of a long-held dream for many.

Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has rejected the independence referendum by Iraq's Kurds as "unacceptable", stressing that Damascus only recognizes a unified Iraq.

In a brief statement, the U.S. embassy in Iraq explained that it will temporarily limit the movement of personnel as a precautionary measure, Efe news reported.

The statement stressed that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was threatening peace and stability in Iraq and the whole region. "The Kurds are hoping that Iraq will reopen talks", Jane said. Counter-terrorism operations targeting the PKK on the Turkish side of the border are ongoing, the statement said.

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