Kurds boycott Iraqi cabinet meeting in
disputed Kirkuk city
May 8, 2012
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (C) arrives at
Kirkuk airport in northern Iraq on May 8, 2012 on
his first visit to the multi-ethic city since taking
office. Photo: Getty Images.
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KIRKUK, Iraq's border with Kurdistan region,
— Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki insisted
Tuesday that Kirkuk had an Iraqi identity during a
cabinet meet boycotted by Kurdish ministers whose
autonomous region lays claim to the disputed city.
The meeting, the first of its kind to be held in the
oil-rich and ethnically mixed northern city, came
amid chilly ties between the central government and
Kurdish authorities who are grappling with several
"Kirkuk is special. It is special because it is a
microcosm of Iraq," Maliki told ministers in a
televised portion of the meeting. "In the truest
meaning of the word, its identity is Iraqi."
"Its communities are Iraq: Kurd, Arab and Turkman;
Shia, Sunni and Christian."
He added that, "this province will stay in this
political, social and economic situation."
Maliki's remarks pointed to his opposition to
allowing Kirkuk to be incorporated into Kurdistan's
three-province northern region as Kurdish officials
have called for and Baghdad has opposed.
Diplomats and analysts persistently point to the
unresolved row as one of the biggest obstacles to
Iraq's long-term stability.
No Kurdish cabinet ministers attended the meeting,
apparently having been asked to stay away by the
Kurdish regional government, according to two
officials, one from the central government and the
other Kurdish, who spoke on condition of anonymity
because of the sensitivity of the subject.
There are several other ongoing disputes between the
central government and Kurdish authorities, notably
over oil revenues and the Kurds' refusal to hand
over Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is accused
by Baghdad of running death squads, accusations
Hashemi says are politically-motivated.
Kurdish regional president Massoud Barzani has also
been critical of Maliki in recent weeks, repeatedly
voicing concern over the prime minister's alleged
centralization of power.
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,www.ekurd.net 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
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
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