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Kurdistan held peaceful and historic independence referendum but stormclouds are drawing near

- Kurdistan referendum 3 25 Sep 2017 - Kurdistan held peaceful and historic independence referendum but stormclouds are drawing near


nsnbc : Polling stations in the Kurdistan Autonomous Region of Iraq closed Monday evening. Voter turnout about two hours before the polls closed was at about 78 percent. At some polling stations people lined up in kilometer-long lines to participate in the historic referendum. As for Monday night, not even Turkey’s threat of war and provocatively deployed Iraqi military forces can sour the grapes, but thunderclouds appear to be drawing near.

Neighboring Iran threatened before the referendum that it would withdraw its representation to the Kurdistan Region and close its borders if the referendum proceeds as planned. Tehran is of the view that relations it developed with Erbil were predicated on Kurdistan Region being a part of Iraq. If Kurdistan separates, it will deem all relations with Erbil, including border traffic, to be null and void.

Turkey has vocally opposed the referendum, hinting at possible sanctions against the Kurdistan Region. Turkey’s Security Council, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stated the referendum is a threat to its national security. Turkey particularly objects to the inclusion of Kurdistani regions in the vote as these include areas inhabited by the Turkmen minority. Both Turkey and Iran launched military drills on their borders to the Kurdistan Autonomous Region and have over the past days also attacked targets in the region.

Most nations, led by the United States, have asked Kurdistan to postpone the vote until at least after the Iraqi elections due to be held in 2018. The US and others worry the referendum may distract from the war against terrorism, specifically ISIS, and may lead to further destabilization in Iraq. They have encouraged dialogue between Kurdistan and Iraq. Israel supported the referendum and an independent Kurdish State – a fact that many who support Kurdistan’s independence have difficulties to digest.

The United Nations opposes the timing of the vote. The Secretary-General and the Security Council have expressed concern about the referendum being a distraction from the war with ISIS and an impediment to reconstruction of war-torn areas in order to allow internally displaced Iraqis to return home. The UN urges dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil.

The Iraqi federal government officially opposes the referendum, deeming it unconstitutional and therefore illegal. The Iraqi parliament has voted to reject the referendum and the Supreme Court has issued an interim ruling to suspend the vote.

The question that was being posed in Kurdish, Turkmen, Arabic and Assyrian languages was: Do you want the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdistani areas outside the administration of the Region to become an independent state? Voters could choose ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. A total 5,338,000 people were eligible to vote in the referendum. The vote was held in the four provinces of the Kurdistan Region: Duhok, Erbil, Sulaimani, and Halabja. A total of 3,280,462 people are eligible to vote from these four provinces according to the following breakdown:
  • Erbil: 1,118,775 voters with 498 polling stations
  • Sulaimani: 1,299,820 voters with 476 polling stations
  • Duhok: 771,867 voters with 264 polling stations
  • Halabja: 90,000 voters with 27 polling stations

Kurdistani areas, the disputed zones claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil, are also able to vote if the local authorities opt to participate. A potential 1,907,538 of people are eligible to vote in the Kurdistani areas according to the following breakdown:

  • Kirkuk: 889,373 voters with 244 polling stations
  • Diyala province: 800,000 voters with 244 polling stations
  • Kurdistani areas of Nineveh province: 218,165 voters with 244 polling stations

Kurdistan referendum 2_25 Sep 2017  - Kurdistan referendum 2 25 Sep 2017 300x197 - Kurdistan held peaceful and historic independence referendum but stormclouds are drawing near

Eligible Kurds in the diaspora were able to vote online. E-voting wasfrom September 23 to 25. An estimated 150,000 eligible Kurds live in the diaspora. The referendum was overseen by the High Referendum Council.

The High Referendum Council consists of representatives from the majority of the Kurdistan Region’s political parties. It is chaired by Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani. On June 7, the council set the referendum date of September 25.

Fourteen of Kurdistan’s political party attended the June 7 meeting, including three of the five members who formed a coalition government: Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU). Gorran and the Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal), the remaining two members of the coalition government, oppose the party-led drive for the vote, instead called  for the regional legislature to convene in order to give the referendum a parliamentary mandate. They however boycotted the parliament session that backed the vote.

With an estimated global population of between 30 and 40 million, the Kurds are one of the largest ethnic groups without a state. Under the post-WWI Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, Kurdish lands were divided between Turkey, Iraq, and Syria, Kurds in all four parts of what is known as Greater Kurdistan have faced persecution, discrimination, and genocide, and have fought at times for greater rights, autonomy, and independence.

In Iraq, Kurds make up 17 to 20 percent of the total population. In the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq, Kurds have had a semi-autonomous government since a no-fly zone was established over their lands in 1991 after the first Gulf War. The new Iraqi constitution that came into effect in 2005, after the US-led invasion of 2003, recognized the Kurdistan Region as a federal region with its own legislature and armed forces, the Peshmerga. Both Erbil and Baghdad have accused the other of violating the constitution. he September 25 referendum took place in Kurdistan of Iraq only, not neighbouring countries.

Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani said “I congratulate the people of the Kurdistan Region. I congratulate the honorable families of the Peshmerga martyrs. I congratulate the brave Peshmerga. Today is a historical day.” He described today’s voting as just the start of this Kurdish struggle. “It is the beginning of a struggle today in which we hope after a talking process with Iraq, with our neighbors, friends and rivals, be able to reach our nation’s  objectives, be able to fulfill the dream grew with us since childhood,” he said. “Today marks the first phase in a long-term process. A process its result will come out after many discussions.”

He said the Kurdistan Region’s referendum does not have to be viewed as a threat to any of the neighboring countries. “We just ask our nation a question; do you want to live in an independent state and today our nation will be answering that question. It is not that we are declaring independence tomorrow,” added Talabani.  He said the neighbors of the Kurdistan Region already know the answer of today’s referendum vote.  “Therefore, we are calling upon our neighbors our friends and the Iraqi government to talk to us and understand our intentions, understand our programs as we will not do something which surprises anyone,” he urged.

Kurdistan referendum 1_25 Sep 2017  - Kurdistan referendum 1 25 Sep 2017 300x163 - Kurdistan held peaceful and historic independence referendum but stormclouds are drawing nearMahmud Sangawi, a Peshmerga commander from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), told the Rudaw news agency minutes after casting his vote in the independence referendum on Monday that a decades-long dream of his party for self-determination had at last come true.  Sangawi is the commander of the Garmian region and he has been commanding some of the southern front lines against ISIS including the Khanaqin city. He said that they reassure the people that the area is safe, thanks to the Kurdish Peshmerga. “The front lines are safe. I used to say: leave the war to us, and the ballot box to people. But I am now saying that the front line and the ballot box are for us, too. I am proud that I was the first one to vote for the independence of my people, and for the souls of my fellow martyred comrades. I just added yet another bright piece to my 47-years long of struggle.”

Syria’s Rojava: We help the Kurdistan Region if attacked   –   Hadiye Yusuf, the co-chair of the mainly Kurdish founding council in Northern Syria or Rojava, has said that the Simalke border crossing with the Kurdistan Region and other such crosses will remain open.  She said on Sunday the Kurdistan Region can depend on Rojava if it was attacked or a blockade imposed.  Yusuf added that “the Turkish policy will fail,” making reference to threats from Kurdistan’s northern neighbor that threatened with sanctions if referendum held. The Rojava administration held its first local elections on Friday they announced a confederal system in Syria.  Turkey opposes the Rojava self-administration as it considers the Kurdish fighters there to be allied to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a banned organization in Turkey. Rojava denies the accusations.

PM Barzani: We only want to show the will of our people to the world    –    The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government delivered remarks after voting in Monday’s independence referendum. “Today is a historic day. Our message on this day is: The people of Kurdistan with all of its components who live here want to peacefully and democratically express their opinion about their future, and how it should look like,” said PM Nechirvan Barzani. He reiterated that independence is a process and it will not be declared tomorrow.  “What we see today in the Kurdistan Region, as part of the voting process for independence referendum, is not to declare the independence of Kurdistan the following day,” said the PM. … “We are not and will not threaten Turkey’s national security, and neither will we intervene in the Turkish affairs, not today, and neither in the future. We want to be a good neighbor,” Barzani said.

Erdogan threatened to cut off oil pipeline    –    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ankara would close its border with northern Iraq over an independence referendum and threatened the Iraqi Kurds with blocking their key oil exports. Erdogan commented on the Kurdistan referendum from the Islamic Cooperation Ombudsmen conference. “Entrance-exit will be closed” at the Habur border crossing to the Kurdistan Region, Erdogan said in a speech as he angrily denounced Monday’s referendum as “illegitimate,” according to AFP. He added: “After this let’s see… who they sell (their oil) to. The valve is with us. It’s finished the moment we close it.” “If there is a threat against us in Iraq and Syria, all options are on the table,” he said.

Putin calls Erdogan, agree to continue ‘thorough’ talks on regional issues    –    Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone on Monday. According to the Kremlin, it was agreed the two will continue “a thorough exchange of views on the regional and bilateral agenda.” Putin will travel to Ankara for “working meeting” on Thursday.  CNN Turk also confirmed the telephone call, which also focused on the Syrian conflicts.

Al-Maliki calls vote ‘declaration of war’ against Iraqis’ unity    –    Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki came out on Monday harshly against the Kurdistan Region’s self-determinative vote on independence. “Kurdistan’s referendum is the declaration of war against the unity of the people of Iraq,” said Maliki, the head of the Dawa Party and the Iraq’s ruling State of Law Coalition. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is also a member of Dawa.

High voter turnout in referendum – so far – peaceful referendum    –    Voter turnout across Kurdistan was 78 percent until 6 p.m., which was one hour before voting stations closed, the electoral commission told the Rudaw news agency (which has been blocked by Turkey). At 7 p.m. it was reported that polls are now closed, the electoral commission confirmed.  Voting ended in the majority of areas at 7pm after a one-hour extension. Polls closed in Kirkuk at 6pm. The vote count began immediately after the stations were closed. The Kurdish commission have said that they expect to declare the first results within 24 hours.

F/AK – A/N & CH/L – nsnbc 25.09.2017

NSNBC

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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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