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 Iraqi Kurds believe foreign interference is holding up Article 140 

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Iraqi Kurds believe foreign interference is holding up Article 140  9.6.2011  
By Hemin Baban and Hevidar Ahmed







June 9, 2011

ERBIL-Hewlêr, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Politicians admit that neighboring countries are meddling in efforts to resolve conflicts over Iraq’s disputed areas but maintain that it is up to the Iraqi government to address the problem.

Adil Barwari, advisor to the Iraqi Prime Minister for Kurdistan Affairs, said Iraq’s neighboring countries are attempting to kill Article 140 of Iraq’s constitution, which sets guidelines for resolving territorial disputes between the Kurdistan region and Baghdad. Neighboring countries include Syria, Turkey and Iran.

But Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Kamal Kirkuki said foreign interference does not matter as long as Iraqis have the will to enforce the article.

“Those who try to eliminate this article want the situation to remain unsolved. They don’t want Iraq united and developed,” said Kirkuki. “If there are foreign powers preventing this process it isn’t important... We should look at every option to make sure this article is implemented.” 
                  

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. 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.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, the new Iraqi government added Article 58 —later changed to article 140 in the permanent constitution— to Iraq’s constitution to address disputes over areas that stretch along the border between the autonomous Kurdistan region and the rest of Iraq. Perhaps the most important area is oil-rich Kirkuk province, which is claimed by both Arabs and Kurds.

Narmin Osman, Vice-Chairman of the Iraqi government’s Committee to Implement Article 140, agrees with the Prime Minister’s advisor that Iraq’s neighbors are intervening to stop implementing the article.

“The regional countries that have their own Kurdish problem do not want this article implemented and Iraq stabilized,” said Osman.

According to Osman, neighboring nations fear this article because “they are concerned that the Kurdistan region will expand territorially by attaching … disputed areas there will be the possibility of creating an independent Kurdistan that will have a strong economy.”

The Iraqi constitution set a deadline of December 2007 to resolve the disputed areas, but after more than four years not much has been done. Kirkuki warned the public’s patience may soon run out.

“The implementation of Article 140 has been delayed for a long time, and if it’s delayed further the excuses of the government won’t be enough,” said Kirkuki. “Eventually people will take to the streets and call for the implementation of the article. So if anyone thinks that implementing this article will cause problems, it’s actually exactly the opposite.”

Kirkuki’s argued that citizens are inspired by the new wave of protests that have swept the Middle East, maintaining that people living in the disputed areas will take matters into their own hands and hold the Iraqi government to account unless the matter is addressed.

“It is the era of rule of law, democracy and respect for the constitution,” said Kirkuki. “The federal constitution has outlined the solution for every problem,
www.ekurd.netbut if it isn’t implemented people will force it to happen. (Prime Minister Nuri) al-Maliki personally wants this article to be implemented. But Iraq is a complex place. It is a country only by name.”

Kurds reiterate that they want everything to be solved through Article 140, which mandates that Iraqis who were displaced in disputed territories under Saddam Hussein’s regime to return to the homes. It also mandates that a census and then a public vote be held on whether a regional or federal government should govern the province. The implementation of the article has been perpetually delayed over concerns that Kirkuk’s security is unstable.

In an interview with the pan-Arab Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani said, “If this article is dead it means the constitution is dead. And if the constitution is dead it means Iraq is finished.”

Kirkuk is home to several ethnic and religious groups -- Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Christians – most of whom claim ownership of the province. However, Kirkuki believes that the majority of the residents of Kirkuk want peace.

Recently the chairman of Kirkuk’s City Council, a Kurd, stepped down and the post was given to a Turkman.

“We see the Turkmen as one of us,” said Kirkuki. “When we gave this post to a Turkman it was gesture of good will because the Kurds don’t see anyone as a threat and most of the Turkmen want peace to prevail.”

Kirkuki admitted that the neighboring countries such as Iran and Turkey as well the United States and United Kingdom and France can influence the situation, “but they say it is an Iraqi issue and Article 140 is part of the constitution, which should be respected.”

Rakan Jaburi, Deputy Governor of Kirkuk, said the interference of neighboring countries in Article 140 is to be expected “because the Kurds are in charge here and that’s why outside help is sought (by other groups).”

He also places blame on the Iraqi government.

“The negligence of Iraq’s [government] regarding this issue is also why others are called in,” Jaburi said.

Responding to those who believe that Kurds should re-take Kirkuk by armed struggle, Kirkuki said that violence is not the answer. He instead suggested peaceful measures such as peaceful protests.

“We don’t want to see war and loss of lives in Kirkuk,” he said. “It’s time to hold sit-ins and act like Gandhi. The best option for Article 140 is to take to the streets which we can do at any time.

“You can take back Kirkuk with people. Sit on the streets, disrupt the daily life and demand your rights,” he said.

Arshad Salihi, a Turkman member of the Iraqi Parliament, said that Article 140 must be implemented in a way that serves the interests of the people of Kirkuk.

“If the article is implemented with flaws it is our right to seek (help) from our friends, whether they inside Iraq or outside,” Salihi said.
 

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