Tensions Rise As Kurdish Independence Vote Approaches

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Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi have on many occasions stated the door for negotiations and dialogue would never be closed between Erbil and Baghdad to resolve their disputes peacefully.

Russian energy giant Rosneft have agreed to invest in a new $1 billion pipeline in Iraqi-Kurdistan, just days before the Kurdish provinces head for referendum vote on independence.

Police deployed overnight in the northern Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk to prevent any outbreak of ethnic violence ahead of a referendum on Kurdish independence strongly opposed by the Baghdad government, local residents said.

Turkey, the U.S., Iran and the United Nations have all backed Baghdad in speaking out against the referendum planned for the Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Iraq, saying the vote would distract from operations against Daesh and lead to greater instability in the region. Kirkuk, a multi-ethnic city, is the key to the control of the region's oil riches- and Baghdad has indicated a few times that it has no intention of letting its control slip and fall entirely in the hands of the Kurdish government.

Iran and Turkey fear it will further unsettle their own Kurdish populations.

Kirkuk's council has voted to take part in the referendum.

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Turkey launched a military drill featuring tanks close to the Iraqi border on Monday, its army said.

A Reuters reporter saw armoured vehicles carrying heavy weaponry and soldiers taking positions in specially dug areas, their weapons directed across the border.

The Kurdish authorities show no sign of bowing despite global pressure and regional threats to call off the referendum, which Baghdad claims is unconstitutional and a prelude to breaking up the country.

It plans to undertake commissioning of the gas pipeline and first domestic supplies in 2019, with export supplies slated for 2020. Barzani has vowed to keep the current "harmony" between the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces.

Navasardyan reminded that great powers voice strong objections to the referendum planned on September 25.

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