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 Iraq to 'review' relations after Turkey FM visit to Kirkuk

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Iraq to 'review' relations after Turkey FM visit to Kirkuk  7.8.2012 

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al- Dabbagh. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) and the governor of Kirkuk Najmaldin Karim, in the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, on August 2, 2012, during a rare visit by a high-ranking Turkish official to the city. His visit comes a day after Davutoglu visited Kurdistan and met Kurdistan president, Massoud Barzani, for talks that focused on the conflict in Syria, and at a time of notably cool relations between Baghdad and Ankara. Photo: UKS
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August 7, 2012

BAGHDAD,— Iraq is to "review" relations with Turkey after Ankara's foreign minister visited the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk without informing Baghdad, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Tuesday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's visit to Kirkuk on August 2 drew a furious reaction from Baghdad and brought already-chilly relations between the two countries to a new low.

"The cabinet studied recent developments in Turkish-Iraqi relations and decided to review these relations in light of recent developments in a new cabinet meeting as soon as possible," Dabbagh said in an emailed statement.

The cabinet also decided to form a committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani "to investigate the circumstances of the Turkish foreign minister's visit to Kirkuk and present recommendations to the cabinet," he said.
Iraq's foreign ministry responded to the visit with a statement saying "it is not in the interest of Turkey or any other party to underestimate the national sovereignty and violate the rules of international relations."

But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended the visit, saying it is only normal for "a minister bearing a red passport to visit the regional administration (in Kurdistan in north Iraq) and then travel to Kirkuk, 40 kilometres from (Erbil) to meet with his kinsmen."

Kirkuk province is part of a swathe of disputed territory in northern Iraq that along with oil contracts are among the main points of contention between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government in Erbil.

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 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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