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 Kirkuk not Turkey’s business, says Kurdistan Gov't official

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Kirkuk not Turkey’s business, says Kurdistan Gov't official  9.3.2011  

March 9, 2011

ERBIL-Hewlêr, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) undersecretary to the Ministry of Peshmarga Affairs said Kirkuk is an internal issue and not Turkey’s business following the deployment of forces in the disputed city in late February.

Jabbar Yawar’s statement comes after the Turkish media reported that Turkey wanted the Kurdish Peshmarga forces to withdraw from the oil-rich province where “demonstrators” attacked government buildings and set a police station on fire.

The government buildings and police stations in Hawija and Riyadh towns in Kirkuk were set on fire and three police officers were killed in armed clashes on February 25.

Following the violence in the province, the KRG deployed the Peshmarga forces to Kirkuk province to “protect” the ethnic Kurds and other minorities from insurgent attacks.

On Sunday, a Turkish foreign affairs delegation headed by Fereydun Sinirlioglu,         

Jabbar Yawar, The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) undersecretary to the Ministry of Peshmarga Affairs.
deputy foreign minister, visited Kurdistan and met the regional President Massoud Barzani. The Turkish Milliyet newspaper said the subject of the meeting was Kirkuk and the deployment of the Peshmarga forces there.

The deputy Turkish Foreign Minister highlighted the concerns of Turkey’s and the Turkmen community of Kirkuk and urged Barzani to pull back the forces from the city, the newspaper quotes its sources.

But Mr Yawar says “This issue is no business of the Turkish government. Legally speaking, how can the Turkish government ask the KRG (such a thing)”

Kirkuk is an internal issue and the concern of the KRG and the Iraqi government which can be discussed in talks, he said, “there is an agreement between the Iraqi government, the Kurdistan Region and the US forces regarding the stationing of those forces in the disputed areas”

Kirkuk is an ethnically diverse city where Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Christians live. The history of the tensions between the ethnic groups stems from the former Iraqi government’s “Arabization” policies to expel the Kurds and Turkmen of the province in order to resettle Arab families there instead to control the natural wealth of the province,
www.ekurd.netin particular its vast oil reserves.

But after the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein, many of those families have returned to Kirkuk to reclaim their properties and resettle there.

A spokeswoman for the al-Iraqiya list led by former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi which represents the Iraq’s Sunni majority including the Arabs and Turkmen of Kirkuk described the deployment of those forces to Kirkuk as “normal” but criticized their mobilization without an order from the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

“…the mobilization of those forces without an order from Maliki is illegal because he is the commander in chief of the armed forces in Iraq,” Maysun al-Damluji told AKnews.

According to the Iraqi constitution, the Peshmarga forces are part of the Iraqi defense system.

The Arabs and Turkmen of Kirkuk doubt the good intentions of the Peshmarga forces to protect civilians from insurgents. They believe those forces are there for a political purpose.

A claim rejected by Yawar. “There is not political goal behind the presence of the Peshmarga forces in the disputed areas,” he said.

The Kurds now form the majority in the province after they won more than half the votes of the province in the May 7 general election in 2010 by a small margin.

Turkey hasn’t demanded peshmarga withdrawal from Kirkuk, says spokesman

The spokesman for Kurdistan Ministry of Peshmarga said Turkey has not requested Kurdistan Regional government in Iraq to withdraw its forces from Kirkuk province, stressing the question is an Iraqi internal issue.

The Turkish Milliyet newspaper published that in their meeting this week in Erbil, the Turkish foreign top officials and Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani discussed the presence of Peshmarga (Kurdish armed forces) in the oil rich Kirkuk province. The newspaper citing its sources said the Turkish side demanded peshmarga withdrawal from the province.

After Feb.25, the nationwide Day of Anger thousands stormed into the streets across Iraqi provinces, in protest to the deficiencies and procrastination of the government. In some areas as in Kirkuk province, some districts fell into the hands of the protesters who threatened “to liberate the whole province”. This led Kurdistan which persistently claims the tenure of the multiethnic province, expedite its forces to the province “to protect the civilians.” The move has been criticized by some Iraqi sides as an “attempt to occupy the province.”

Jabbar Yawar, the spokesman for Peshmarga Ministry told AKnews the issue of peshmarga deployment in Kirkuk is not related to Turkey in legal terms.

“This is an Iraqi internal issue that is to be settled by the Iraqi and the Kurdish governments,” Yawar said, adding he has not been informed about any such requests.

Kirkuk city is historically a Kurdish city and it lies just south border of the Kurdistan autonomous region, the population is a mix of majority Kurds and minority of Arabs, Christians and Turkmen, lies 250 km northeast of Baghdad. Kurds have a strong cultural and emotional attachment to Kirkuk, which they call "the Kurdish Jerusalem." Kurds see it as the rightful and perfect capital of an autonomous Kurdistan state.

Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution is related to the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk city and other disputed areas through having back its Kurdish inhabitants and repatriating the Arabs relocated in the city during the former regime’s time to their original provinces in central and southern Iraq.

The article also calls for conducting a census to be followed by a referendum to let the inhabitants decide whether they would like Kirkuk to be annexed to the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region or having it as an independent province.

The former regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had forced over 250,000 Kurdish residents to give up their homes to Arabs in the 1970s, to "Arabize" the city and the region's oil industry.

The last ethnic-breakdown census in Iraq was conducted in 1957, well before Saddam began his program to move Arabs to Kirkuk. That count showed 178,000 Kurds, 48,000 Turkomen, 43,000 Arabs and 10,000 Assyrian-Chaldean Christians living in the city. 

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