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Iraqi Kurds vote in independence referendum

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Iraqi Kurds vote in independence referendum

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria are against separate Kurdish state

In a major development after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq in 2003, semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in the country is holding an independence referendum, on Monday, against strong objections from central government in Baghdad and in defiance of urgent calls from international community to scrap the exercise.

According to reports from various sources, Erbil, the capital of the present semi-autonomous region, witnessed lots of enthusiasm among the residents. Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani voted in a polling station near the city. Polling was in progress in Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dahok provinces. Votes were also polled in disputed bordering zones such as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk. Initial results are expected in 24 hours. Polling began at 8 a.m. and will continue for 12 hours.

Earlier President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani  had urged “all Kurds” to go to the polls, saying “his people’s partnership with the central government in Baghdad had failed.”

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, on Sunday, said that Baghdad will not allow the creation of an “ethnic government” in the country. In a televised speech, Abadi said “Taking a unilateral decision, which can affect the unity of Iraq and its security and the security of the region, through a referendum on separation, is unconstitutional and against civil peace. We will take the necessary measures to preserve the unity of the country.”

Iraq’s central government, had on Sunday, called on the world countries not to purchase oil from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region. Central government has also asked to Kurdish region to hand over control of international border posts and its international airports.

In a fast moving development, Iran, considered to be the best friend of Iraq in the region, closed its airspace to all flights to and from the semi autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq at Baghdad’s request on Sunday.

Keyvan Khosravi, spokesman of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC)  was quoted by Press TV saying, “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.”

Iran has, once again, asserted its support to Iraq’s sovereignty and integrity on Monday.  President Hassan Rouhani, in a telephonic conversation with Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi, said that Iran was against any move that would undermine Iraq’s territorial integrity and national unity.

“In this important issue concerning Iraq, we will stand by our neighbor and the Iraqi government,” Rouhani said.

Meanwhile, Turkish government, on Sunday, lined up its tanks at border crossing with Iraq’s Kurdish region, sending clear signal of their opposition to the Kurdish Regional Government’s independence referendum.

Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan, while addressing UN General Assembly on Tuesday said, “New crises in the region, such as bids for independence, could spark new conflicts and must therefore be avoided at all costs … We urge Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government to abort the steps they have taken in that direction.”

Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moallem said on Sunday in New York that his country doesn’t recognize the Iraqi Kurdish referendum on support for independence from Baghdad, which could break up the neighbouring country. He said, “We reject any measure that leads to dividing Iraq.”

Syria, like turkey and Iran, opposes the vote in Iraqi Kurdish region fearing that Kurdish communities within Syria might eventually do the same.

Prior to the referendum in the Kurdish region, Iraq’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of suspension of the independence referendum and country’s parliament voted to reject the proposal. PM Abadi has even threatened military intervention in case the referendum leads to violence.

Despite fierce criticism from neighboring countries and US, Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan went ahead with referendum. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had recently supported creation of a separate Kurdistan state in the region. Israeli flag was also spotted during a pro-referendum rally in Erbil last week.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Sri Lankan Minister Douglas Devananda says statements on reclaiming Katchatheevu island from Sri Lanka have no ground

Devananda told the media on Thursday that it is not unusual to hear such claims and counterclaims about Katchatheevu as elections are taking place in India.

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Sri Lankan Minister Douglas Devananda has said the statements from some political leaders in India on reclaiming Katchatheevu from the island nation have no ground. He told the media on Thursday that it is not unusual to hear such claims and counterclaims about the strategic island as elections are taking place in India.

The Sri Lankan Minister said he thought India is acting on its interests to secure this place to ensure Sri Lankan fishermen would not have any access to that area and that Sri Lanka should not claim any rights in that resourceful area. According to the 1974 agreement, Devananda said Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen can go fishing in the territorial waters of both countries until the pact was reviewed and amended in 1976.

The amended agreement resulted in fishermen from both countries being barred from fishing in neighboring waters. India’s ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday steered clear of the row surrounding Katchatheevu island. To a volley of questions on the Katchatheevu issue, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal reffered to External affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s recent comments on the matter.

He said he would like to talk about the issue that has been raised. He added the External Affairs minister has spoken to the press here in Delhi and also in Gujarat and has clarified all the issues. He said everyone should look into the press engagements and they would find the answers to their questions there.

The remarks from Devananda, a Sri Lankan Tamil, came days after the Narendra Modi government accused the Congress and its ally DMK in Tamil Nadu of overlooking national interests by handing over Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka in 1974. The BJP has also been slamming the 2 parties for not ensuring the rights of the fishermen wanting to fish in waters around the island.

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US reiterates its call for fair, transparent, legal process for Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, speaks on Congress frozen accounts

The US spokesperson said that they are also aware of the Congress party’s allegations that tax authorities have frozen some of their bank accounts in a manner that will make it challenging to effectively campaign in the upcoming elections.

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A day after India summoned an US diplomat over their remarks on the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the liquor policy case, the US reiterated its call for fair, transparent, timely legal processes on Wednesday.

Responding to questions on India summoning Gloria Berbena, the US Acting Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that they will continue to follow these actions closely, including the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Notably, the meeting at the foreign ministry’s South Block office lasted nearly 40 minutes yesterday with India objecting strongly to the US remarks on the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal.

Matthew Miller also responded to a question on the Congress party’s frozen bank accounts. The US spokesperson said that they are also aware of the Congress party’s allegations that tax authorities have frozen some of their bank accounts in a manner that will make it challenging to effectively campaign in the upcoming elections. He added that the US encourages fair, transparent and timely legal processes for each of the issues.

Arvind Kejriwal was arrested last week by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection to the Delhi liquor policy scam. Earlier, AAP leaders Manish Sisodia, Satyendar Jain and Sanjay Singh were arrested in the same case.

The External Affairs Ministry had earlier stated that states are expected to be respectful of the sovereignty and internal affairs of others, and this responsibility is even more so in case of fellow democracies, adding that it could otherwise end up setting unhealthy precedents.

The Ministry further emphasized that India’s legal processes are based on an independent judiciary which is committed to objective and timely outcomes. It mentioned that casting aspersions on India’s legal procedure is unwarranted.

The United State’s remarks followed days after Germany’s Foreign Office stressed that Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is entitled to a fair and impartial trial. The Indian government labelled their remark as blatant interference in internal matters.

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5 Chinese nationals killed in suicide bomb attack in Pakistan

This is the third major attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan within a week.

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Nearly five Chinese nationals were killed in an explosion during an attack on their convoy by a suicide bomber in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday. Reportedly, the suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers travelling from Islamabad to their camp in Dasu, situated in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Regional police chief Mohammad Ali Gandapur said that five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in the attack. As yet, none has claimed responsibility for the attack. Bisham Station House Officer (SHO) Bakht Zahir asserted that the incident was a suicide blast and the authorities concerned were collecting the evidence.

The Station House Officer further added that security arrangements were tightened at the spot and the bodies were being shifted to a hospital. He added that they will investigate from where and how the vehicle of a suicide bomber came and how it happened. Notably, this is the third major attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan within a week.

Previously, two attacks hit an airbase and a strategic port in the southwest province of Balochistan where China is investing billions in infrastructure projects. Several Chinese engineers and Pakistani construction workers have for multiple years been working on hydroelectric projects as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative in the western province of Khyber-Paktunkhwa.

Notably, Dasu is home to a significant dam project, has been a target of previous attacks. Earlier in 2021, the attack in Dasu resulted in the deaths of nine Chinese nationals, along with two Pakistani children. The incident occured when a bus carrying Chinese engineers and workers to the Dasu Hydropower Project site was targeted.

There was confusion surrounding the nature of the attack initially, with some reports suggesting it was a bus accident. Nonetheless, subsequent investigations revealed that it was indeed a terrorist attack. The bus was hit by a blast, leading it to plunge into a ravine.

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