Iraqi leader threatens flight ban after Kurdish independence vote

In an address in Erbil on Tuesday night, Massoud Barzani, the region's president, referred indirectly to Mr. Abadi's ultimatum. Iraq's central government condemned the KRG for including Kirkuk in its referendum and has threatened to retaliate.

"Such a decision would bring nothing but harm to the people", he said.

"The referendum is not to delimit the border (between Kurdistan and Iraq), nor to impose it de facto", Barzani added.

Kurdish election officials said 72% of eligible voters had cast their votes in the referendum.

Iraq's prime minister has demanded the Kurdistan Regional Government "cancel" the outcome of the referendum on independence that it held on Monday. Al-Ghanemi met the Iranian armed forces' chief of staff, Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, and was scheduled to visit the two countries' joint border, the Mizanonline news website said. "Iran and Turkey and other regional countries won't stand silent and will stand against this abhorrent deviation", Ali Akbar Velayati, top advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency as saying.

It comes after Iran vowed to stand with Iraq and Turkey against calls for Kurdish independence.

But Turkish airline Pegasus announced on Wednesday it would immediately suspend flights into Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, according to local media reports.

In addition to being strong advocates for human rights and standing up against Genocide, the Kurdish people in the region have been a bulwark against ISIS and have pledged to protect minorities.

The Kurds and the Iraqi government have long-running disputes over oil revenues and who controls several key cities in the region. The Kurds prevented Kirkuk's huge oil resources from falling into the militants' hands.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces have helped drive the jihadist group from large parts of northern Iraq since 2014, when the Iraqi army collapsed and lost control of several cities. In helping to eliminate the terror group, Kurdish leaders appear to have expected the backing of the worldwide community in pursuing nationalist aspirations.

The Doha-based carrier is the only one of the three main Gulf airlines that fly into Irbil. Around 30 million are scattered through northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey and parts of Syria and Iran. Though it's non-binding, it has inceased tensions between the Kurds and Baghdad as well as Turkey and Iran, both of which have a sizable Kurdish population. But the Kurds were protected from Saddam Hussein's troops by an American no-fly zone starting in 1991, and have since built a thriving proto-state across northern Iraq.

  • Leroy Wright