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 UN envoy calls for talks over elections in disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk

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UN envoy calls for talks over elections in disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk  28.4.2011  







April 28, 2011

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 stability.

"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 political agreement."

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 Baghdad.

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. 

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 2010.

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.
 

Copyright ©, respective author or news agency, AFP | ekurd.net | Agencies 

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