UN envoy calls for talks over elections in
disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk
KIRKUK, Iraq's border with Kurdistan region,
— Negotiations must begin shortly over finally
holding long-delayed provincial elections in the
divided flashpoint Iraqi province of Kirkuk, the
UN's envoy to Baghdad said.
UN special representative Ad Melkert called for a
conference to be held in Baghdad involving all of
the religious and ethnic communities in Kirkuk,
which is at the centre of a tract of disputed
territory that is claimed by both the central
government and Kurdish regional authorities.
US officials have persistently said the unresolved
row is one of the biggest threats to Iraq's future
"I was pleased to see there is clear consensus among
the parties for these elections," Melkert said late
Wednesday on a visit to Kirkuk, 240 kilometres (150
miles) north of the Iraqi capital.
UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General
for Iraq, Ad Melkert. Photo: Getty Images.
"We believe it is time to move from dialogue to
negotiations. We are ready to provide advice and
help make progress."
Kirkuk was one of only four provinces that did not
hold provincial elections when they last took place
nationwide in January 2009. The other three were all
of the provinces that make up Iraqi Kurdistan.
Melkert added: "The goal is to bring together all
the parties in Baghdad, including the
representatives from Kurdistan, and all the
communities in Kirkuk,www.ekurd.netthe
representatives of all the blocs, to discuss
outstanding issues and narrow the gap to achieve
The oil-rich, multi-ethnic and multi-religious
province of Kirkuk and its eponymous capital are
home to Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen.
Kurdish regional authorities in Arbil have demanded
that the province and parts of three others be
incorporated into its autonomous area, but that
claim has been rejected by the central government in
The oil-rich province of Kirkuk is one of the most disputed areas by the
regional government and the Iraqi government in Baghdad.
The Kurds are seeking to integrate the province into the semi-autonomous
Kurdistan Region clamming it to be historically a Kurdish city, 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
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
In an effort to promote cooperation between Arab and
Kurdish security forces along the disputed territory
of which Kirkuk is at the centre, the US military
began conducting tripartite patrols and running
joint checkpoints with the two sides at the start of
Those efforts will conclude when US forces withdraw
from the country by the end of this year, according
to a bilateral security pact with Iraq.
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