Kur­dish in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum is il­le­git­i­mate, Tiller­son de­clares

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - Nation&world - By The Wash­ing­ton Post

BAGH­DAD — The United States on Fri­day de­clared il­le­git­i­mate Mon­day’s Kur­dish ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence, as the Iraqi gov­ern­ment im­posed a ban on in­ter­na­tional flights to air­ports op­er­ated by the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment and Iraqi troops pre­pared to seize the semi­au­tonomous re­gion’s bor­der con­trols.

“The United States does not rec­og­nize the ... uni­lat­eral ref­er­en­dum,” Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said in Wash­ing­ton’s first sub­stan­tive state­ment on the vote, in which nearly 93 per­cent of vot­ers in the Kur­dis­tan re­gion ap­proved declar­ing an au­ton­o­mous state in north­ern Iraq.

“The vote and the re­sults lack le­git­i­macy,” Tiller­son said, “and we con­tinue to sup­port a united, fed­eral, demo­cratic and pros­per­ous Iraq.”

He urged both sides to re­ject the use of force and en­gage in di­a­logue, and to re­main fo­cused on the fight against the Is­lamic State, which he said was “not over.”

The flight ban was the first ma­jor step Bagh­dad has taken to ex­press its out­rage over the ref­er­en­dum. It has also threat­ened to close land bor­ders be­tween Kur­dis­tan and the rest of Iraq and to send troops into the dis­puted, oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Iraqi sol­diers are mass­ing on the Ira­nian and Turk­ish bor­ders with the Kur­dish re­gion, pre­par­ing to take con­trol of the cross­ings from Kur­dish au­thor­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior Iraqi of­fi­cial.

Turkey and Iran, which have their own restive Kur­dish pop­u­la­tions, also op­posed the ref­er­en­dum.

The Iraqi mil­i­tary also tem­po­rar­ily closed a ma­jor road link­ing the Arab city of Mo­sul to the Kur­dish city of Dahuk on Fri­day.

Kur­dish of­fi­cials have called the mea­sures il­le­gal and have pleaded for in­ter­na­tional sup­port. But Tiller­son’s sharp state­ment in­di­cated that the United States, de­spite its al­liance with the Kurds, would not of­fer any.

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