Iran has closed its airspace to all flights to and from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq at the request of the country’s federal government, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) says.
“At the request of the central government of Iraq, all flights from Iran to Sulaymaniyah and Erbil airports as well as all flights through our country’s airspace originating in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region have been halted,” Keyvan Khosravi, a spokesman for the SNSC, said on Sunday.
He added that the decision had been made during an emergency session of the SNSC earlier in the day after Iran’s “political” efforts proved ineffective in the face of Kurdish officials’ insistence on holding a planned referendum on the independence of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
The Iranian official warned that hasty decisions made by some officials of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region would limit the power of the Iraqi Kurds for engaging in constructive dialogue within Iraq’s government structure and would also pose serious challenges to security of the Kurdish people, the entire Iraq and the region.
There are conflicting reports as to whether a referendum on possible independence of the Iraqi Kurdistan on Monday will go ahead as planned after several regional officials warned the vote could have serious consequences.
The high council for referendum affairs, which is supervised by Iraqi Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, rejected reports of a postponement as rumors, the Kurdistan 24 news station said.
Iraq’s government has called the referendum unconstitutional with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi rejecting it “whether today or in the future.”
The planned referendum has raised fears of a fresh conflict in the region, which is trying to emerge from years of Daesh campaign of death and destruction.
In a statement on September 18, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged Iraq’s Kurdish leaders to scrap an upcoming independence vote, saying it would undermine the ongoing battle in the Arab country against Daesh terrorists.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on international affairs, on September 16 expressed the Islamic Republic’s opposition to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum, warning that separatist moves in the region would ultimately serve the interests of the US and the Israeli regime.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran opposes any move either knowingly or unknowingly towards independence of one part of Iraq or any other country in the region,” Velayati added.
The Iranian official noted that Iran was a “strategic ally” of Iraq, which was in agreement with whatever demand put forth by the legitimate government in the Arab country.