News ID: 201157
Published: 1228 GMT September 24, 2017

Iran closes airspace to all flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan

Iran closes airspace to all flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan

Iran has closed its airspace to all flights to and from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq at the request of the country's federal government, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) said on Sunday.

The move came a day ahead of the Kurdistan Region's independence referendum.

“At the request of the Iraqi central government, the Iranian airspaces have been closed on all flights that originate from Kurdistan Region,” said the SNSC spokesman Keivan Khosravi on Sunday, ISNA reported.

Khosravi said the decision had been made during an emergency session of the SNSC earlier in the day after Iran’s “political” efforts proved ineffective in the face of Kurdish officials’ insistence on holding a planned referendum on the independence of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, Press TV reported.

The Iranian official warned that hasty decisions made by some officials of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region would limit the power of Kurds for engaging in constructive dialogue within Iraq’s government structure and would also pose serious challenges to security of Kurdish people, the entire Iraq as well as the region.

Iran had said it would close its borders if Kurdistan went ahead with plans to hold its referendum.

The head of the SNSC, Ali Shamkhani, said earlier this month that there was still time left for Erbil to reconsider their decision on the vote. He said that they have told the Kurdish leadership that there will be “implications” if they insist on their move to leave Iraq.

The central government in Baghdad, Iraq’s neighbors and some Western powers fear the vote could divide the country and spark a wider regional conflict, after Arabs and Kurds cooperated to dislodge Daesh terrorists from its stronghold in Mosul.

There are conflicting reports as to whether a referendum on possible secession of the Iraqi Kurdistan on Monday will go ahead as planned after several regional officials warned the vote could have serious consequences.

The high council for referendum affairs, which is supervised by Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, rejected reports of a postponement as rumors, the Kurdistan 24 news station said.

Iraq's government has called the referendum unconstitutional, with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi rejecting it "whether today or in the future."

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to impose sanctions against Kurdish northern Iraq. Turkish troops are also carrying out military exercises near the border.

In a statement on September 18, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged Iraq’s Kurdish leaders to scrap an upcoming secession vote, saying it would undermine the ongoing battle in the Arab country against Daesh terrorists.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Turkey, Iran and Iraq agreed to consider countermeasures against Kurdish northern Iraq over a planned independence referendum.

In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the three countries on the sideline of the UN General Assembly sessions in New York, voiced concerns that the referendum would endanger the gains Iraq has made against Daesh, and reiterated their fears over the potential for new conflicts in the region.

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