More than 92 per cent in Iraqi Kurdistan voted for independence



ERBIL, IRAQ, Resala al-Sharkani and Nehal El-Sherif (dpa) – A referendum on the independence of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region has been approved by an overwhelming majority, the election commission said on Wednesday, amid escalating tensions between Baghdad and Erbil.
At least 92.7 per cent of Iraqi Kurdish voters approved the independence of the Kurdistan region in a referendum held this week.



More than 3.3 million people cast their ballots on Monday out of 4.6 eligible voters, which meant a turnout of 72.16 per cent across the region, as well as in disputed areas controlled by the Kurds in Iraq and polling stations abroad.
The commission praised the "victory and success" of the voting process, because it was not marred by violence.
While the vote is non-binding on Baghdad, it was met with a series of threats from the federal government and neighbouring Turkey of imminent sanctions.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the Kurdish government on Tuesday to hand over its two airports, and gave it until Friday to comply, or face a flight ban.
Al-Abadi also vowed there will be no negotiations with Erbil over the results of the vote.
"We will never hold talks over the results of the referendum," he said, according to state broadcaster Iraqiya TV.
The Kurdish government dismissed the demand as inappropriate and illegal, yet several airlines said they will halt flights to Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region.
"The Erbil and Sulaimaniya airports belong to Kurdistan and they continue to work as normal," Kurdish Transport Minister Mawlood Bawa Murad told reporters earlier in the day.
"The demand of the Iraqi government to hand over airports is inappropriate and incorrect. Suspending the flights will have negative repercussions on the people," he added.
Egyptian and Lebanese airlines said they will suspend all flights departing for Iraqi Kurdistan starting Friday, complying with a request from the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority.
EgyptAir will halt the three flights per week it operates between Cairo and Erbil, officials at the national airline said.
Lebanon's Middle East Carrier (MEA) will also halt its flights to Erbil, its chairman, Mohammed al-Hout, told dpa.
The director of Erbil International Airport, Talar Fayaq, described the decision to halt flights to the region as "wrong and illegal."
Germany's national airline Lufthansa, however, said it will continue to fly to Erbil airport.
The referendum has also raised alarm among Iraq's neighbours - particularly Turkey, Iran and Syria - because of concerns it could encourage their own Kurdish minorities to break away.
Ankara has threatened to shut down a pipeline used by Kurdistan to send crude oil to Turkey and global markets in response to the vote.
Meanwhile, the head of Iraq's military, Othman al-Ghanmi, arrived in the Iranian capital Tehran shortly after the results of the disputed referendum were announced.
In a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Bagheri, al-Ghanmi thanked Iran for its continued military support. "We are convinced that Iran will be at Iraq's side until the end," said al-Ghanmi, according to the Tasnim news agency.
The report also said that al-Ghanmi would deliver a message from his al-Abadi to Iranian President Hassan Rowhani.
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Thursday, September 28th 2017
Resala al-Sharkani and Nehal El-Sherif
           


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