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Iran warns Iraq Kurds independence means end to border deals

Iraq's Kurds rallied on Sunday in support of independence despite diplomatic pressure [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 September, 2017

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Iran has warned a "yes" result in Kurdistan's upcoming independence referendum would signal an end to cross-border agreements, as the UN joins calls to cancel the scrap the vote.

Iran warned on Sunday that independence for Iraqi Kurdistan would mean an end to all border and security arrangements with the regional government.

"Border agreements stand only with the central government of Iraq, and secession of Kurdistan region from the central government of Iraq would mean the blocking of all shared border crossings," Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told the state broadcaster IRIB

"The secession of the Kurdistan region from Iraq's territory would be the end of security and military agreements between Iran and the Kurdistan region," he added. 

The leaders of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region are set to hold a referendum on independence on September 25. 

Although the referendum would not be legally binding, Shamkhani said that any move towards independence could lead to Iran disregarding rules of engagement along the border. 

"Iran would then prepare itself to enter areas deeper than the border in response to anti-security actions," he said, referring to regular attacks by Iran's own Kurdish separatists based in Iraqi territory. 

Tehran, which has worked closely with Kurdish peshmerga forces in Iraq against the Islamic State group, fears the independence movement could encourage separatists among its own Kurdish population. 

Shemkhani repeated the official line that Iran would only ever recognise the "united, integrated and federal government of Iraq". 

Pressure

Iraq's Kurds have also come under intense diplomatic pressure from the United Nations, United States and neighbouring Turkey to cancel the referendum amid fears it will add yet another source of conflict to the combustible region. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday urged Iraqi Kurds to scrap the plans, arguing it would detract from the fight against Islamic State jihadists.

It would also undermine reconstruction efforts and the return of refugees, he added.

Guterres said in a statement that any dispute between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan regional government should be resolved through dialogue and "constructive compromise."

Iraq's military is prepared to intervene if fighting breaks out following the referendum, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned on Saturday.

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