Iraq's Kurdish Region Votes In Controversial Independence Referendum

Dominique A. Pineiro

Erdogan, speaking at a conference in the Turkish capital of Ankara as Iraqi Kurds voted in their region on Monday, said that Kurdish independence was unacceptable to his country and that this was a "matter of survival".

Iran has constantly been in contact with the Kurdish officials, and has insisted that the Kurdish region should have solved its problems with Baghdad central government through political dialog, the spokesman said.

Kurdish officials say a "yes" vote will send a message Baghdad can not ignore, paving the way for negotiations aimed at a peaceful exit.

"Only through independence can we secure a future where we will not have the past atrocities", he said.

As voting started, Turkey said it does not recognize the referendum and will view its results as null and void.

The high-ranking Iranian official added that even if the Kurdish people voted "yes" for the independence of the region, Iraq's central government, parliament and military forces would not accept the result.

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.

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"In Iraq, when necessary, we will not shy away from taking these types of steps", Erdogan said, referring to Turkey's military operation launched a year ago in Syria against Islamic State group (IS) extremists and Syrian Kurdish militia.

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's Kurds hope Monday's non-binding referendum on independence marks the start of a peaceful, negotiated break with Baghdad, but it may have instead placed them on a new collision course with Iraq and its neighbors.

The referendum has raised alarm in Iraq's neighbours - Turkey, Iran and Syria - over concerns it could encourage their own Kurdish minorities to break away. In Iraq, they have always been at odds with the Baghdad government over the sharing of oil revenues and the fate of disputed territories like Kirkuk.

That would be the realization of a long-held dream for many. The oil-rich city has large Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen and Christian communities and has seen some low-level clashes in the days leading up to Monday's vote. "Nobody will rule us, we will be independent".

The US State Department warned the Kurds last week that "holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing".

In a statement Mr Guterres said "all outstanding issues between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government should be resolved through structured dialogue and constructive compromise".

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