Referendum results in overwhelming endorsement of split from Baghdad, after troops are sent into disputed areas
A Syrian Kurd takes a selfie in the north-eastern city of Qamishli during a gathering in support of the referendum in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region. Photograph: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images
More than 92% of voters in Iraqi Kurdistan have opted for independence, according to election monitors, in an overwhelming endorsement of a proposed split from Baghdad.
The result came after Iraq’s parliament authorised the prime minister, Haidar al-Abadi, to send troops into areas disputed between Arabs and Kurds that were contentiously included in the ballot.
Euphoria on the streets of Erbil in recent days has been met with sharply increasing tension in the region, which is likely to escalate in the wake of the result.
Baghdad has pledged to close Kurdish airspace at 6pm on Friday and Turkey says it is considering whether to shut its frontier with Kurdistan and impose a trade ban.
Massoud Barzani, the de facto president of the region’s Kurds, had hoped to transition strong support for the poll into political leverage that could eventually help negotiate independence from Iraq. His moves have been met with increasing hostility, raising the prospect of isolation, and blockade.
Some Iraqi leaders have warned of military action, particularly over the fate of Kirkuk.