Iran closes border crossings with Kurdish region in Iraq

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Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi /Fatemeh Bahrami / Anadolu Agency

Tehran on Monday declared that it had closed its border gates to crossings from Iraq’s Kurdistan region, which is holding an independence referendum despite opposition from neighboring countries including Iran, CNN Türk reported.

Following a request from Baghdad, Iran on Sunday announced a halt of air traffic to and from Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi on Monday said they had also closed border gates to the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Qassemi added that the Iranian government would make a statement regarding other measures against Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) on Sunday closed Iran’s airspace and air border to the Iraqi Kurdish region, SNSC spokesman Keyvan Khosravi said.

He said that Iran took the decision because the KRG did not cancel the referendum despite many requests by Iraq and Iran.

Based on the decision, all flights to Sulaymaniyah and Arbil airports as well as transit flights from Iraqi Kurdistan through Iran’s air zone are halted, Khosravi added.

Iraq’s neighbors and allies, including Turkey and the US, oppose the referendum, warning that it will trigger ethnic violence, create divisions in Iraq and undermine the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The Iraqi army’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Othman al-Ghanmi, paid a visit to Turkey on Saturday amid a crisis over the KRG’s referendum.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday threatened to impose sanctions on Kurdish northern Iraq over the planned independence vote.

Turkish foreign ministry on Monday issued a press release describing the independence referendum of the KRG as “null” and “void” and said that Turkey does not recognize the referendum, which lacks international legitimacy.

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