Regional powers support Iraq's territorial integrity amid Kurdish referendum

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/9/26 14:09:42

Iraqi Kurds cast their ballots on Monday in a controversial independence referendum amid heightened tension due to Baghdad's and international opposition. Regional powers and the international community have voiced support for Iraq's territorial integrity.

VOTE AMID THREATS

About 5.2 million eligible Iraqi Kurdish voters were entitled to cast ballots at 12,000 polling boxes in 2,000 polling centers.

Queues were formed since early morning at many polling stations, and the region's president Masoud Barzani was one of the first to vote.

The voters were asked to answer one question in the referendum: either "Yes" to an independent Kurdish state or "No" to remain as an autonomous region of Iraq.

"I urge the people of Kurdistan to go to the ballot boxes to express their views without any problems and to maintain security and order during this democratic experiment," Barzani said before the vote.

However, Barzani said the referendum "does not mean defining the borders. We want to open dialogue with the Baghdad government to reach common understanding and to solve our pending problems."

According to the regional electoral committee, the results of the referendum will be announced within two or three days.

The Iraqi government has repeatedly rejected the referendum and its results, describing it as "unconstitutional."

"Taking a decision unilaterally that would affect Iraq's unity and making separation from one side is contrary to the law and unconstitutional and we will not deal with it or with its results," Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement.

SURROUNDING COUNTRIES VOICE SUPPORT FOR UNITY

The voice of the Iraqi government is echoed by such neighboring countries such as Turkey, Iran and Syria. These regional powers said an independent Kurdistan would threaten the integrity of Iraq.

They say such a step would threaten their territorial integrity, as those countries have a larger Kurdish population.

Turkey has vowed to take measures against Iraqi Kurds' independence referendum, ranging from economic pressure to military actions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted at barring Iraqi Kurds from exporting gas via Turkey, saying:" We own the valve. The moment we shut the valve, that's the end of it."

Erdogan also mentioned the military exercises currently taking place on Turkey's border with the Iraqi Kurdish region. "Our military is not (at the border) for nothing. We can suddenly step in one night," Erdogan said on Monday.

The territorial integrity of the countries and the irreversibility of their borders in the region is of high importance for Iran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said following a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said that his country supports Iraq's unity and rejects any attempt to fragment that country, including the independence vote of Iraq's Kurdistan.

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY CONCERNED ABOUT STABILITY

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is concerned about "the potentially destabilizing effects" of Monday's referendum in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

"The secretary-general respects the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Iraq and considers that all outstanding issues between the federal government and the Kurdistan regional government should be resolved through structured dialogue and constructive compromise," Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

During his phone call with Rouhani, Putin also said:" the Russian government supports the Baghdad central government and Iraq's territorial integrity."

Since the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government announced its plan to hold the referendum, most Western powers, including the United States and European Union, have voiced concerns that the poll could ignite a new round of conflict between Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan, threaten regional stability and distract the fight against terrorism.

Posted in: MID-EAST

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