Passengers wait to depart on a Turkish Airlines flight at a gate at Erbil International airport, in Erbil, Iraq September 28, 2017. (REUTERS/Marius Bosch)
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The last international flight left Irbil airport Friday as the Baghdad government imposed an air ban in retaliation for an independence vote by Iraqi Kurds that has drawn widespread opposition from foreign powers.Iraq's Kurds overwhelmingly backed independence in a referendum on Monday, defying neighboring countries which fear the vote could lead to renewed conflict in the region.The United States was willing, if asked, to help facilitate talks to try to ease tensions between the two sides, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.Their autonomous region in Iraq is the closest the Kurds have come in modern times to a state. The Kurds consider Monday's referendum to be an historic step in the generations-old quest for a state of their own, while Iraq considers the vote unconstitutional.Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani has said the vote is not binding, but meant to provide a mandate for negotiations with Baghdad and neighboring countries over the peaceful secession of the region from Iraq. The Kurds say the referendum acknowledges their contribution in confronting Daesh after it overwhelmed the Iraqi army.
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