Iran had earlier said that they will close their borders with the Kurdistan Region if the vote on independence goes ahead. People are heading to the polls on Monday, September 25. Photo: IRNA
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — After a request from Baghad, Iran has announced the halting of air traffic to and from the Kurdistan Region, a day ahead of the Region's historic independence referendum.
“At the request of the Iraqi central government, the Iranian airspaces have been closed on all flights that originate from Kurdistan Region,” said Kaivan Khosrawi on Sunday, the spokesperson for the Iranian Supreme Security Council, reported by ISNA news agency and confirmed by state-run IRNA news agency.
He said that Iran took the decision because Erbil did not cancel the referendum despite many requests by Iraq and Iran.
The spokesperson added that it affects all flights to and from the Kurdistan Region with regard to Iranian airspace.
Iran had threatened to close its borders if Kurdistan went ahead with plans to hold its referendum.
Ali Shamkhani, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said earlier this month that there was still time left for Erbil to reconsider their decision on the vote. He said that they have told the Kurdish leadership that there will be “implications” if they insist on their move to leave Iraq.
“The republic of Iran has opened its legitimate border gates on the premise of the consent of the federal government of the Iraqi state. If such an event [referendum] happens, these border gates from the perspective of the Islamic Republic of Iran would lose its legitimacy,” Shamkhani told Iranian state news agency IRIB.
During a June interview with Foreign Policy magazine, the Kurdish President was asked what pressure Baghdad could try to exert on the Region.
"What haven’t they already done? They have done everything. They have cut the budget, meaning they have taken the bread from our people. We receive nothing from Baghdad. Maybe they only thing they can do is close the airspace," said President Masoud Barzani.
However, Barzani said at the time that there are peaceful options to be pursued before such drastic measures.
"If they do those kind of things, there will also be a reaction. We will not stand with our hands tied. We really want to pursue peaceful means, negotiation, and understanding. We want to avoid bloodshed and violence. Then we’ll see, if they take other actions, definitely we will have our own reactions," he detailed.
This is a developing story. Last updated at 3:20 p.m.