Kurdistan-Iraq: PUK Official Discusses
February 23, 2007 - RFE/RL
Bahruz Galali, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's (PUK)
representative to Ankara, said Iraqi Kurdish leaders
are optimistic about the possibility of improving
relations with the Turkish government. He also
commented on Kirkuk, saying a referendum on the
status of Kirkuk would likely be held on schedule,
and calling those who say there is ethnic tension in
the city 'propagandists.' Galali spoke to told RFE/RL
Iraq Analyst Kathleen Ridolfo.
RFE/RL: Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul
has made overtures toward strengthening relations
between the Turkish government and Iraq in recent
days. What has been the reaction of the Kurdistan
Region Government (KRG)?
Bahruz Galali: I
think the relationship between [Kurds] and Turkey
will be better in the future. We are working on it,
and I think it is in the interests of both [parties]
to have a good relationship with each other.
RFE/RL: The United States has appointed a
special representative to mediate issues of
importance to Turkey and Iraq, specifically dealing
with the Turkish-Kurdish opposition group PKK. Has
this helped to facilitate better relations between
Turkey and Iraq?
Galali: Now the
United States and Iraq -- it is in the interests of
all to have good relations between the KRG and
Turkey and also between Iraq and Turkey. We are
thinking now about this, and I hope that
developments will be better than before. We think
that both [parties] need to have a good relationship
with each other. Today there will be an important
meeting [of the National Security Council or MGK] in
Ankara, and I think maybe [the situation] will
become more clear.
RFE/RL: Turkish Chief of Staff General Yasar
Buyukanit took a strong position against Iraqi
Kurdish leaders last week in Washington, accusing
Kurdish leaders [Iraqi President Jalal] Talabani and
[KRG President Mas'ud] Barzani of supporting the PKK
and saying he objected to holding meetings with
Iraqi Kurdish officials. He also criticized the
Iraqis for what he called lax border security. Is
this an area where perhaps the KRG can help smooth
relations with Turkey?
Galali: Now we
have too many problems in Baghdad, and in Iraq and
[we are dealing with] too many terrorist groups in
Baghdad, in Kirkuk, in all the regions. Our
government now in Baghdad is working very hard to
bring security to Iraq. For us as Kurds also, as
Iraqis, we are part of Iraq as a federal, regional,
government.... We are trying to have security in all
of Iraq for our people.
RFE/RL: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan this week asked [KGR Vice President Adil Abd
al-Mahdi] for a delay in the referendum on Kirkuk,
which is slated for December.
Iraqi people decided through Article 140 [of the
Iraqi Constitution] on Kirkuk. All Iraqis -- Arabs,
Kurds, and Turkomans. I think we will hold the
referendum [on schedule], and we are not thinking
about postponing it.
RFE/RL: So you believe that Turkomans and
Arabs living in Kirkuk would be open to holding the
referendum in December?
Galali: I think
[yes] because the majority of Turkomans need this.
[Deposed Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein also
displaced Turkomans from Kirkuk [as he did with
Kurds], and the Turkomans need to be returned to
their homes in Kirkuk. We have a constitution, and
the constitution says we have a plan, an agenda
[regarding Kirkuk]. This is not something on the
side of Kurds alone. The Arabs, the Turkomans, the
Kurds, the Assyrians, Christians -- everyone
supported this [through the constitution].
RFE/RL: Do you think there will be a
resolution to the dispute in Kirkuk? Can Kirkuk
Galali: This is
propaganda -- those who are saying there will be a
war between the ethnic groups in Kirkuk. We don't
think that because we have a good relationship with
the Turkomans. We have a good relationship with the
Arabs, the original Arabs who are living in Kirkuk.
The people who are living in Kirkuk are relevant for
each other. And we think we can [implement] Article
140 with our brothers -- Turkomans, Arabs, and other
communities -- in Kirkuk.
RFE/RL: What is the status of the commission
set up to compensate Arabs [moved to Kirkuk under
Hussein's Arabization program] who return to their
committee has decided to compensate the Arabs who
return to their homes, and [Arabs] are ready now to
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