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Iraqi Kurds vote in historic independence referendum



A woman in Kirkuk casts her vote in the independence referendum.  - 1506334308 942 3500 - Iraqi Kurds vote in historic independence referendum

Iraqi Kurds are casting ballots in Iraq’s Kurdish region and disputed territories on whether to support independence from Baghdad, in a historic but non-binding vote that has raised regional tensions and fears of instability.

More than 3 million people are expected to vote across the three provinces that make up the Kurdish autonomous region, as well as residents in disputed territories – areas claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurds, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk – according to the Independent High Elections and Referendum Commission, the body overseeing the vote.

Lines began forming early in the day at polling stations across Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital.

“Today we came here to vote in the referendum for the independence of Kurdistan,” said Tahsin Karim, one of the first people to vote in his neighbourhood. “We hope that we can achieve independence.”

The Kurdish region’s president, Masoud Barzani, also voted early on Monday morning at a polling station packed with journalists and cameras. At a press conference in Erbil on the eve of the referendum, Barzani said he believed the vote 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.

The referendum is being carried out despite mounting opposition from Baghdad and the international community.

Kurds map

The US, a key ally of Iraq’s Kurds, has warned the vote is likely to destabilise the region amid the fight with Islamic State. The Iraqi central government 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 from Baghdad on Sunday night, the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, said: “The referendum is unconstitutional. It threatens Iraq, peaceful coexistence among Iraqis and is a danger to the region.”

He added: “We will take measures to safeguard the nation’s unity and protect all Iraqis.”

In a strongly worded statement, Turkey said on Monday that it did not recognise the referendum and declared the result would be “null and void”.

Turkey’s foreign ministry called on the international community and especially countries in the region not to recognise the vote 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 Ankara would take all measures to thwart threats to its national security. On Saturday, the Turkish 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 were 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.

At his press conference, Barzani also said that while the referendum would be the first step in a long process to negotiate independence, the region’s “partnership” with the Iraqi central government in Baghdad was over.

He detailed abuses inflicted on Iraq’s Kurds by Iraqi forces, including killings at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s army that left more than 50,000 Kurds dead.

Iraqi Kurds have long dreamed of independence – something the Kurdish people were denied when colonial powers drew the map of the Middle East after the first world war. The Kurds form a sizable minority in Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq. In Iraq, they have long been at odds with the Baghdad government over the sharing of oil revenues and the fate of disputed territories such as Kirkuk.

The Kurds have been a close American ally for decades, and the first US airstrikes in the campaign against Isis were launched to protect Erbil. Kurdish forces later regrouped and played a major role in driving the extremists from much of northern Iraq, including Mosul, the country’s second-largest city.

But the US has long been opposed to Kurdish moves toward independence, fearing it could lead to the breakup of Iraq and bring even more instability to an already volatile Middle East.

theguardian

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kurdistan

KRG delegation meets King of Jordan, Armenian PM, UN official in Davos

- Barzanikingabdullah3 - KRG delegation meets King of Jordan, Armenian PM, UN official in Davos


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) delegation led by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is scheduled to meet with various world leaders on the sidelines of the 2018 annual World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.

The delegation already met with Jordan’s King Abdullah to discuss bilateral relations between Erbil and Amman, according to a Kurdistan 24 correspondent in Davos.

The Kurdish officials are scheduled to meet with the Prime Minister of Armenia, Karen Karapetyan, Wednesday afternoon.

Barzani is also expected to meet with UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed later on in the day, the Kurdistan 24 correspondent reported.

The KRG officials arrived in Davos on Tuesday and are planning to meet with a number of world leaders during the three-day event.

It is the first time Barzani attends the forum. The former President of the Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani, previously took part in the event alongside the world’s leading figures.

In 2017, President Barzani attended the forum and met with then US Vice-President Joe Biden and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende, among other officials.

Editing by Nadia Riva



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Peshmerga complete personal protection, riot-control training provided by coalition

- Coalitiontrainngpeshmerga34 - Peshmerga complete personal protection, riot-control training provided by coalition


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Peshmerga on Wednesday finished an eight-week training session for personal protection and riot control provided by a US-led coalition member.

“Twenty-five Peshmerga took part in the training which lasted eight weeks,” Amin Younis, a Peshmerga officer who participated in the training, told Kurdistan 24.

“The Peshmerga fighters were trained by Italian military advisers who are part of the Global Coalition to defeat the Islamic State (IS),” Younis explained.

He added that part of the training focused on protective detail abilities, which will allow the graduates to provide security for high-level individuals in the Kurdistan Region, notably Consuls and senior diplomats in Erbil.

There are over 38 foreign consulate and representative offices in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, including from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

The Peshmerga officer noted that the training included riot control exercises on how to combat and manage protests in the Kurdistan Region in case demonstrations turn to violence.

Kurdistan 24 approached Italian advisers during the graduation ceremony in Erbil, but they refused to provide any comments.

Italy is one of the coalition members which has been training thousands of Peshmerga fighters since the fight against the Islamic State began in 2014.

Editing by Nadia Riva



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U.S, British citizens join battle against Turkey in Syria’s Afrin – Middle East

- 398817 - U.S, British citizens join battle against Turkey in Syria’s Afrin – Middle East


Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stand together in Raqqa, Syria, October 16, 2017. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

BEIRUT – US, British and German volunteers who have fought Islamic State with Kurdish-led forces in Syria are in the Afrin region to battle a Turkish assault there, an official with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Wednesday.

The Kurdish Afrin region is being targeted in an assault by the Turkish army and Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army groups.

“There was a desire on the part of the foreign fighters who fought in Raqqa and who are fighting in Deir al-Zor to go to Afrin,” senior SDF official Redur Xelil told Reuters.

He declined to say when the foreigners had gone to Afrin, but said they numbered in the “tens.” “They will wage battles against the Turkish invasion,” Xelil said.

“There are Americans, Britons, Germans, different nationalities from Europe, Asia and America,” Xelil said.





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