Baghdad puts pressure on Kurds after independence vote

Monday's poll produced a vote in favour of a split from Iraq

The Iraqi Al-Nahar newspaper published the image on its front page on Tuesday, depicting Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Jordan - all countries with large Kurdish populations - as five black men standing over a white woman.

All foreign airlines operating at the Kurdistan capital Erbil airport will stop running flights as of Friday at the request of the Iraqi government which has chose to clampdown on the Kurdish controversial referendum with a landslide "Yes" eager for a breakaway from Iraq.

Several global carriers have said they will comply with the ban demanded by Baghdad.

Iraq's state television said an Iraqi military delegation had visited the Kurdistan region's border from the Iranian side.

Iraq's government also has ordered global airlines to halt flights to and from the cities of Irbil and Sulaimaniyah starting Friday.

Low-priced carrier FlyDubai said it is halting flights from tomorrow.

The Kurdistan militias of the Peshmerga took control of the region in 2014, after the Iraqi army fled ISIS fighters advancing towards the city.

Turkey had forged close ties to Iraq's Kurdish region, but is strongly opposed to its moves toward independence.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said however that Ankara would only institute targeted oil sanctions against individuals responsible for holding the referendum to avoid impacting civilians in the region.

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On Thursday, the Moroccan government spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi said that the kingdom is against the move, which he said "threatens Iraq's security and territorial integrity".

Talar Saleh, the general director of Irbil International Airport, says Kurdish authorities were unaware of how to comply with Baghdad's demand to hand the airport over to federal authorities before Friday evening in order to avert the threatened flight ban.

It said added that authorities were working to increase flights until Friday.

The decision comes after the state-run Qatar News Agency earlier quoted Qatar Airways' CEO as saying his airline will continue to fly to Irbil "as long as its airspace remains open and there are no security issues". But his interventions in Syria were just dabbling in other people's problems; an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq, he thinks, would be an existential threat to Turkey itself.

Monday's vote took place across the three northern provinces of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan - Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk - and in disputed border zones such as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

Already, low-priced carrier FlyDubai says it is halting flights from Saturday.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened potentially crippling restrictions on oil trading with Kurdistan, whose crude oil revenues represent a key source of income for the region's economy, and warned he was willing to take "all necessary steps" to protect Turkish interests.

The residents of Iraqi Kurdistan went to the polls on September 25 to vote on an independence referendum for the autonomous region amid pressure from Baghdad and neighboring countries. Oil has always been the source of dispute between Baghdad and Erbil and is especially contested when it comes to fields along the conventional disputed "borders" of Kurdish Iraq, of which Kirkuk is part.

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