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02 October 2017, 12:41 | Simon Arnold
Iraq Set To Impose Flight Ban On Kurdistan In Row Over Independence
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi wants the referendum, in which 92% of voters backed secession, to be annulled.
The announcement on Saturday came amid rising tensions in the wake of a controversial secession referendum in Iraq's Kurdistan region, where nearly 93 percent of voters backed a split from Baghdad. When colonial powers drew the map of the Middle East after World War I, the Kurds, who now number around 30 million, were divided among Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq.
Erdogan had earlier warned that Turkey would shut its border with Iraqi Kurdistan and threatened to block oil exports from the region through his country.
Meanwhile, the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government, or KRG, said Friday that Baghdad's punitive measures against its plebiscite amounted to "collective punishment against the people of Kurdistan".
It went on to say the people of Iraq should avoid "anything that might harm the national unity of Iraq's communities".
Neither will the ban apply to military or humanitarian flights, the director of the Kurdistan worldwide airport, Talar Faiq, told a press conference.
He said many refugees used the airport, that it was used by the United Nations to send humanitarian aid to Syria, and that coalition forces were also hosted there. Iraqi forces were also deployed on the border with Turkey as part of a joint exercise with Turkish troops.
"A joint military exercise between Iran's armed forces and units from the Iraqi army will be held in the coming days along the shared border", Iranian armed forces spokesman Masoud Jazayeri told reporters in Tehran.
Earlier, the U.S. said it would be willing to help facilitate conversations between Iraqi Kurds and Baghdad in an attempt to ease tensions between the two sides after a controversial Kurdish referendum vote.
Turkish Prime Minister Bin Yildirim, speaking on Saturday, did not refer specifically to those plans, but said Ankara would no longer deal with Kurdish authorities in Erbil.
The escalation feeds worries in the United States, a close ally of both the Kurds and Baghdad, that the referendum vote could lead to violence, setting off an unpredictable chain of events.
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