Iraqi Kurds face pressure to cancel independence referendum

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Iraqi Kurds fly Kurdish flags during an event to urge people to vote in the upcoming independence referendum in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on September 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMED

International objections against an independence referendum to be held by Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Sep. 25 are mounting, NY Times reported on Thursday.

According to the report, neighbors and allies, including Turkey and US repeatedly voiced their opposition to the referendum warning that it will trigger ethnic violence, create division in Iraq and undermine fight against Islamic state militants.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his US counterpart, Donald Trump met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Thursday and reaffirmed their rejection of KRG’s independence referendum.

The White House earlier described the call to vote as “provocative and destabilizing.”

The United Nations also warned that the vote would have a negative impact on the fight by American-led coalition against Islamic State. The coalition consists of Kurdish fighters and Iraqi army units.

Iran on the other hand promised to close its border with the region if the referendum is held. Iran as well as Turkey are worried about the potential repercussions of referendum on their Kurdish minorities.

The Iraqi government in Baghdad opposed the referendum calling it illegal and warned that Iraq is ready for military operation if violence breaks up after referendum.

There are also opposing groups within Kurdistan itself.

Turkey strongly opposes the KRG referendum decision. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) issued a press release on Monday saying that the military had started conducting drills in the Silopi/Habur region on the Turkish-Iraqi border, which is seen as a warning to KRG President Massoud Barzani to deter him from holding the referendum.

Erdoğan recently said that Barzani would better understand Turkey’s position after a National Security Council (MGK) meeting that has been rescheduled for Sept. 22 due to the Kurdistan referendum.

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