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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Barzani Urges Kurds to Vote 'In Peace' in Independence Poll

By VOA News September 24, 2017

The president of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, urged his people to go to the polls – a day before Kurds will vote in a referendum to gain independence from Iraq.

"We have reached the conclusion that independence will allow us not to repeat past tragedies," he told a news conference in Irbil, capital of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan in northern Iraq.

"The partnership with Baghdad has failed and we will not return to it," said the Kurdish leader said, urging all Kurds to vote "in peace" on Monday.

Earlier Sunday, neighboring Iran announced that it has stopped all flights to the Kurdish region of Iraq.

The move is the first concrete retaliation to the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) referendum on independence from Iraq, which is opposed by the national government as well as by powerful neighbors Iran and Turkey.

The Kurdish region has repeatedly ignored calls to cancel the referendum, and the supreme court, which moved to suspend the referendum last week, has little power to implement its order.

Barzani said Monday's referendum on independence would not result in an immediate change, but instead would trigger talks with Baghdad about an independent future.

Barzani told VOA's Persian service last week that following the referendum, which has widespread support among Iraqi Kurds, the Kurdish government would begin discussions with Iraqi officials on such issues as border demarcation, division of natural resources and a timeline for declaring independence. Barzani estimated the transition time would be one to two years.

Turkey, which borders the Iraqi Kurdish region, has strong ties with Barzani, but Ankara has been stepping up its pressure to call off the vote.

VOA's Persian service contributed to this report.

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