With an overwhelming “yes” expected in the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum, the focus has turned to what happens next in a region ravaged by war, terrorism and sectarian violence.
The unofficial referendum count, published by the Kurdish Rudaw website, claims that at least 90% of the 5.3m registered voters opted for independence from Iraq.
While Iraq says it won’t recognise the results, the Kurdish population is the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East and the vote could stir up separatist movements across Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey.
Turkey’s military is on standby awaiting the results. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned of possible armed action saying the military will “do whatever it takes”, including closing the border to oil exports from the region, Al Jazeera reports.
On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the vote “threatens Iraq, [and] peaceful co-existence among Iraqis, and is a danger to the region”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his country “supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state”.