Turkey sees high stakes in Iraqi Kurds' independence vote

Main opposition CHP says gov't should be 'cool-headed' on KRG referendum

Barzani has attracted the wrath of Ankara as well as Baghdad and Iran with the move to hold today's non-binding vote on independence for the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

Turkey has a large ethnic Kurdish population and has been fighting an insurgency by rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, for more than three decades.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and USA as well as Turkey, although only Turkey has designated the PYD's armed wing, the YPG, as a terror group in Syria, where it is used by the US-led coalition to fight Daesh.

The Turkish leader hinted at barring Iraqi Kurds from exporting gas via Turkey, saying "We own the valve".

Washington is opposed to the independence referendum.

Neither the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) nor pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) members attended the meeting because they were "out of town", the agency added.

Despite calls for postponement from the global community, Iraqi Kurds voted today in defiance of threats from Baghdad, Ankara and Tehran. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said earlier in the day that Turkey, which also has a significant Kurdish minority living on its territory, would not go to war, but it would take measures to ensure its national security.

Turkey nevertheless launched military exercises at the border with northern Iraq last week in an apparent warning to the Iraqi Kurds.

The mandate was first approved by parliament in October 2014 and has been renewed every year, allowing military action in Turkey's two southern neighbors against Daesh terrorists and other groups deemed by Ankara to be terror organizations.

Turkey says it is weighing economic options, including shutting down a border crossing, stopping oil flows from a pipeline and restricting flights.

The referendum on Monday was proceeding peacefully but there were fears of potential unrest, especially after lawmakers in Baghdad demanded that troops be sent to disputed areas where voting was taking place.

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