Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kirkuk not Turkey’s business, says KRG official

March 9 (AKnews) – 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.

Mr Jabbar Yawar's statement comes after the Turkish media reported that Turkey wanted the Peshmarga forces to withdraw from the oil-rich province where "demonstrators" carrying former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein 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, 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"

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.

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, in 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.

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.

Historically, the province was majority Kurdish. According to a poll conducted in 1957, the figures were: 178,000 Kurds, 48,000 Turkmens, 43,000 Arabs and 10,000 Assyrian-Chaldean Christians.

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.

The claim was rejected by Yawar. "There is not political goal behind the presence of the Peshmarga forces in the disputed areas," he said.

Raber Younis Aziz (AKnews)
AKnews reporters Hazhar Mohammed and Idris Abubakir contributed to this story

Wednesday, March 9th 2011 10:56 AM