Kurds vote in referendum on independence

Kurds vote in referendum on independence

Iraqi Kurds are voting to decide on whether they want independence or to remain part of Iraq.

The referendum on independence has kicked off in Iraqi Kurdistan.

People are congratulating each other, and there is a festive mood on this occasion in Erbil, the capital city of this autonomy.

All Iraqi citizens that are registered in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Kurdish territories outside its borders are eligible to take part in this plebiscite. 

The High Electoral Commission had informed that more than 3 million people have the right to vote in this referendum. 

The vote is being carried out despite mounting regional opposition to the move and the United States has warned the vote will likely destabilize the region amid the fight with the Islamic State group.

Baghdad has also come out strongly against the referendum, demanding on Sunday that all airports and borders crossings in the Kurdish region be handed back to federal government control.

In a televised address on Sunday night, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that "the referendum is unconstitutional. It threatens Iraq, peaceful coexistence among Iraqis and is a danger to the region. We will take measures to safeguard the nation's unity and protect all Iraqis."

Earlier on Sunday, the Kurdish region's president, Masoud Barzani, said during a press conference in Erbil that he believed the voting would be peaceful, though he acknowledged that the path to independence would be "risky."

"We are ready to pay any price for our independence," he said.

TURKEY: WE DON'T RECOGNISE THE REFERENDUM

In a strongly worded statement, Turkey said on Monday that it doesn't recognize the referendum and declared its results would be "null and void."

Turkey's Foreign Ministry called on the international community and especially regional countries not to recognize the vote either and urged Iraq Kurdish leaders to abandon "utopic goals," accusing them of endangering peace and stability for Iraq and the whole region.

The ministry reiterated that Turkey would take all measures to thwart threats to its national security. On Saturday, Turkey's parliament met in an extraordinary session to extend a mandate allowing Turkey's military to send troops over its southern border if developments in Iraq and Syria are perceived as national security threats.

Initial results from the poll are expected on Tuesday, with the official results to be announced later in the week.

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