Turkey mulls response to Kurdish independence vote

Q&A Kirkuk Gov. Najmaldin Karim

Kurds across the Kurdistan Region and overseas gathered in a show of solidarity for the historic independence vote.

Gorran, the main opposition movement to Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), boycotted the parliament session in Erbil.

The controversial referendum, results of which will be non-binding, will see residents of the northern Kurdish region vote on whether or not to declare independence from Iraq.

The UK Foreign Office said in order for the Iraqi Kurds to settle their disputes with the central government, they had better engage in dialogue with Baghdad and set aside plans for independence.

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Iraq's neighbours Iran and Turkey also oppose the plebiscite, fearing an independent Kurdish state could fuel separatism among their own Kurdish populations.

McGurk said at a news conference in Irbil that Brussels, Washington, Paris, London and Baghdad had cooperatively developed an alternative plan to the contentious referendum.

In late 1980s, forces of Iraq's then autocrat Saddam Hussein unleashed several attacks on Kurdish areas, including with chemical weapons. But relations with Baghdad have grown strained in recent years over oil and the disputed areas.

Iran, Turkey and the United States also object to the vote, fearing further instability. "If our will is strong, we will achieve victory", Barzani said. "We have heard many empty promises until now", Mr Barzani told a rally in the Kurdish city of Dohuk. Overseas voting takes place September 23.

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The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to brief media. After the incident, the Torkham Gate was closed for all kinds of traffic.

Borders and military forces would remain in their current positions, and Baghdad would authorize Kurdistan to continue exporting the oil that it now ships through Turkey in breach of the federal constitution.

"We refuse to accept the Iraqi parliament's decision, which was unlawful", Muna Qahwachi, a Turkman lawmaker, told Reuters.

"The referendum's legitimacy comes from the people of Kurdistan, not from the outside", he added.

Kirkuk is the capital of the oil-rich province of the same name which is disputed by the federal government in Baghdad and the autonomous region of Kurdistan.

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He indicated that he was in no mood to compromise, particularly as Kurdish MPs last night voted overwhelmingly to go ahead with the plan.

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