Turnout high as Iraqi Kurds defy threats to hold independence vote

The Iraqi oil Ministry ikby'oil field warning

Erdogan, speaking at a conference in the Turkish capital of Ankara as Iraqi Kurds voted in their region on Monday, said that Kurdish independence was unacceptable to his country and that this was a "matter of survival".

Iran announced a ban on direct flights to and from Kurdistan on Sunday, while Baghdad asked foreign countries to stop direct oil trading with the Kurdish region and demanded that the KRG hand over control of its global airports and border posts with Iran, Turkey and Syria.

The Kurdish authorities refused to postpone the exercise, contrary to the non-acceptance of Turkey, Iran, the Arab League and the central Iraqi government predicting a regional breakdown with the dismemberment of this nation. Iran has a Kurdish population, but they have not experienced the same level of violence as Kurds in Turkey and Syria have in recent years.

Polling stations are scattered across the three northern provinces of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan - Arbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk - as well as in disputed border zones such as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's Kurds hope Monday's non-binding referendum on independence marks the start of a peaceful, negotiated break with Baghdad, but it may have instead placed them on a new collision course with Iraq and its neighbors.

The Kurdish referendum was preceded by a flurry of diplomatic contacts and phone calls.

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Iran believes that the unilateral move by Iraq's Kurdistan is taking place in an improper time without the necessary prudence, he said, stressing that the move undermines the central government's achievements in the fight against terrorism. "Discrimination between Iraqi citizens on the nationalist and ethnic foundation exposes Iraq to dangers known only by God", al-Abadi said from Baghdad.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that his country would do whatever it takes to block efforts against the Turkey's territorial integrity.

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

"Iraq is against the Kurds, so are the Turks, the Iranians, the whole Arab region and Europe. We don't want to destabilise Iraq or Kurdistan. but certainly our aim is an independent Iraqi Kurdistan in the near future".

"I will not vote, the referendum is not good, and it could be risky because of the threat from Turkey and Iran", said a shop owner in Sulaimaniya, Ali Ahmed.