Kurd Party switches sides to vote YES on KRG referendum

The referendum is opposed by the Iraqi central government in Baghdad as well as the neighbouring countries of Turkey and Iran, besides major worldwide powers.

Iraq's central government rejected the vote long before it was held, and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has warned of "follow-up steps to protect the unity of the country". "The moment we close the tap, then it's done". After 2003, Kurdish leaders agreed to an Iraqi constitution that calls for negotiations over disputed areas, so holding the referendum in Kirkuk and other cities now is seen as provocative.

Kirkuk was essentially under the control of the Iraqi government before it was seized by ISIS three years ago, NPR's Jane Arraf reports.

However, Iran's Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that the country's land border with the Iraqi Kurdistan Region remained open despite its independence referendum.

The integrity of Iraq is highly important for Iran, Rouhani said, adding that the security of his country and the region is, to a significant degree, depends on this factor.

Turkey is home to the largest Kurdish population at an estimated 14 million.

Turkey, the US, Iran and the United Nations warned that the vote would distract from operations against Daesh and lead to greater instability in the region.

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Erdogan said traffic was only being allowed to cross from the Turkish side of the border into Kurdish areas of Iraq.

Also on Sunday, Iran closed its airspace to all flights to and from the Kurdish region at the request of the Iraqi government.

However, KRG President Masoud Barzani defended the non-binding vote, saying only through the referendum can Kurds secure their future.

An armed conflict between Iraq and the Kurds would pit two close US allies against each other and detract from their war against the Islamic State group.

"The referendum does not mean independence will happen tomorrow, nor are we redrawing borders", he said in Erbil.

As voting started, Turkey said it does not recognize the referendum and will view its results as null and void. They have also argued over the sharing of oil revenues, with the Kurds exporting through a Turkish pipeline over objections from Baghdad.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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