By Rasha Khalaf
Iran on Sunday closed airspace with northern Iraq’s Kurdish region at the request of the Iraqi government, one day ahead of a controversial referendum on the secession of the region, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported.
“At the request of the Iraqi government, all air flights to the airports of Sulaymaniyah and Erbil airports have been halted,” IRNA quoted Kaivan Khosrawi, a spokesperson for the Iranian Supreme Security Council, as saying.
He said flights from the Kurdish region to Iran have also been stopped.
The spokesman said Tehran has taken the move over refusal of Kurdish officials to cancel the referendum.
The Iranian spokesperson warned that hasty decisions by officials in the Kurdish region “will threaten the security of Kurds, Iraq and the whole region”.
On Monday, Iraqis in areas held by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) -- and in a handful of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad -- will vote on whether to secede from Iraq.
Along with Baghdad, Turkey, the U.S., Iran and the UN have all spoken out against the poll, saying it will only distract from the ongoing fight against Daesh and further destabilize the region.
Iraq’s central government has threatened to intervene militarily if the vote leads to violence.
KRG’s leader, Masoud Barzani, has said a “Yes” vote would not result in an automatic declaration of independence but would simply lead to further negotiations with Baghdad.