Iran insists land border with Iraqi-Kurdistan is 'still open'

Peshmerga forces were seen waving Israel’s national flags in Erbil on Saturday

Iraqi Kurds headed to the polls September 25 to vote on an independence referendum despite continued strong opposition from neighboring Turkey and Iran, the broader global community and the Iraqi central government in Baghdad.

Keyvan Khosravi, a spokesman for Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), said on Sunday Iran had 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 and Turkey have sizeable Kurdish populations of their own and fear the vote will stoke separatist aspirations at home.

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"In Iraq, when necessary, we will not shy away from taking these types of steps", Erdogan said, referring to Turkey's military operation launched previous year in Syria against Islamic State group (IS) extremists and Syrian Kurdish militia.

"I'm so happy I could take part in this independence vote during my lifetime".

Voters were asked to tick either Yes or No on the ballot asking them just one question in Kurdish, Turkish, Arabic and Assyrian: "Do you want the Kurdistan Region and Kurdistani areas outside the (Kurdistan) Region to become an independent country?"

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"The land borders between Iran and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq are open and these borders have not been closed", the ministry said, adding that only air borders between Iran and this region were now closed.

"We hope for a unified Iraq to annihilate ISIS, and certainly a unified Iraq to push back on Iran", White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee-Sanders told reporters, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or Daesh.

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, KRG representative to the U.S., says that while the result is non-binding for the Iraqi government, it is "binding" for the Kurdish leadership "to follow the will of the people". The Iranian president also spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. "If the "Yes" vote wins, we will resolve our issues with Baghdad peacefully".

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"I will not vote, the referendum is not good, and it could be risky because of the threat from Turkey and Iran", said a shop owner in Sulaimaniya, Ali Ahmed.

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