Iraq’s Kurdish leader, Masoud Barzani, has claimed victory in a referendum on independence – before votes have been tallied – amid threats from Baghdad to take over the region’s borders and a demand from Turkey to “give up or go hungry”.
With a result supporting independence expected on Wednesday, Iraqi Kurdistan’s neighbours have stepped up calls for the result to be set aside and have pledged to take active steps to cripple the region’s economy.
“If Barzani and the Kurdish regional government do not go back on this mistake as soon as possible, they will go down in history with the shame of having dragged the region into an ethnic and sectarian war,” said the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“It will be over when we close the oil taps, all [their] revenues will vanish, and they will not be able to find food when our trucks stop going to northern Iraq.”
Speaking after Erdoğan’s comments and an address by the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, Barzani appealed for “peace and dialogue” after the inevitable result is declared.
“We assure the international community that we are committed to a dialogue process with Baghdad,” he said. “Threats will solve nothing.”