Baghdad orders Kurdish region to hand over borders, ports ahead of referendum

ANI | Updated: Sep 25, 2017 05:59 IST

Baghdad [Iraq], Sep 25 (ANI): Hours before the Kurds get ready to carry out a controversial referendum, Iraq's central government in Baghdad ordered the country's Kurdish region to hand over all border crossings and airports to federal government control late Sunday night, according to a local media report.

The referendum is set to be held on Monday in the three provinces that make up the Kurdistan region, as well as dozens of towns and villages that are disputed, claimed both by Baghdad and the country's Kurds, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

The Iraqi government "requests neighbouring countries and the countries of the world to deal with the Iraqi federal government exclusively (with regards to) ports and oil," read a statement from the Prime Minister's National Security Council released Sunday night.

For the unversed, the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, with population of 5.2 million, plans to hold a nonbinding independence referendum on September 25.

Earlier in the day, Kurdish region's president Masoud Barzani urged the people to cast their votes in the upcoming independence referendum, pledging that the vote would be held, despite mounting pressure from Baghdad and the international community.

"Only through independence can we secure a future, where we will not have the past atrocities," he said, remembering the abuses Iraq's Kurds have faced by Iraqi forces, including killing of more than 50,000 kurds by Saddam Hussein's army.

On a related note, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday evening repeated his call for the cancellation of the vote.

"The map of Iraq is suffering attempts at division and tearing up of a united Iraq. Discrimination between Iraqi citizens on the nationalist and ethnic foundation exposes Iraq to dangers known only by God," al-Abadi said from Baghdad.

The United States and the United Nations also have voiced strong opposition to the vote, warning it could further destabilise the region, as Iraqi and Kurdish forces continue to battle the Islamic State group. (ANI)

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