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Kurdish referendum on 'Independence' unpopular but imminent
January 19 2018, 01:43 | Irvin Gilbert
Former US Diplomat: Efforts to Derail Kurdish Referendum Won't Work
Iraqi Kurdish leaders are vowing to press ahead with an independence referendum on Monday despite intense pressure from the Iraqi government, which claims the plebiscite is illegal, and the worldwide community that is almost unanimous in its opposition to the vote.
"The U.S approach, however, remains unclear regarding the upcoming referendum".
Despite Ahmed's comments, the influential Kurdish National Council that is opposed to a federal region called for boycotting the vote.
"The delegation will discuss the referendum but the referendum is still happening", he said. "It is a simple democratic process for the people of Kurdistan to express their will, to decide their future".
The KRG's President Masoud Barzani, for his part, has said that a "Yes" vote would not result in an automatic declaration of independence but would simply lead to further negotiations with Baghdad.
Tehran-backed paramilitaries have conducted attacks on supporters of the Kurdish referendum in areas outside the KRG, especially in villages where the local council has voted to join in the vote.
A regional conflict could threaten oil supply from Kurdish and northern Iraqi fields to world markets, carried through a pipeline to Turkey.
"These elections are an important step in the history of Syria", senior Kurdish official Ilham Ahmed said.
The Electoral Commission in the region said that the number of ballot boxes amounted to 12 thousand and are distributed at over 2000 centers in all areas where the referendum will be held.
"The news conference will take place on Sunday, and the time and venue will be announced later", Barzani's office announced without elaborating.
Iraq's central government has threatened to intervene militarily if the vote leads to violence.
When asked whether a cross-border operation was among the options, Yildirim said "naturally" but "it is a question of timing as to when the security, economic and political options will be applied".
In reaction to the Kurdish military assertiveness, Turkey sent its troops previous year into northern Syria, undermining a contiguous Kurdish-held east-to-west territory.
"For independence we must pay any price needed because we prefer freedom over subordination or oppression", Barzani told a rally on Friday in Erbil, adding that Kurdish Peshmerga fighters had earned the right to self-determination by battling Islamic State.
The Turkish Armed Forces on Saturday raised the level of a military drill near the Turkish-Iraqi border since this Monday.