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 Kurdistan major parties concerned about Iraqi army's movements in disputed areas

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Kurdistan major parties concerned about Iraqi army's movements in disputed areas  19.7.2012  

Map: Reuters/Ekurd.net   See Related Links
July 19, 2012

ERBIL-Hewlêr, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', —  The politburos of the two dominant parties in Kurdistan met Wednesday and demanded the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) take necessary steps in the face of the recent operations and movements of the Iraqi army in the disputed areas.

The meeting of the politburos of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was chaired by Massoud Barzani, Kurdistan and KDP's president.

In a statement issued after the meeting the PUK and KDP voiced concern over "noticeably systematized movements of the army in the disputed areas from Mandali borders until Sinjar."

The statement said the Iraqi army has empowered the military units in these areas and has also deployed new units there.

It continued "this process is contrary to the content of a prior agreement… contrary to the principles of partnership and keeping away the army from the internal disputes… Army's duty is protecting the borders not indulging in internal issues."

The major parties demand the KRG take necessary steps "for protecting the security of residents of these areas and support and assist in their reconstruction and returning their residents," according to the statement.

The disputed areas are mainly multiethnic towns and cities whose ownership is disputed between Baghdad and Erbil governments. These include Kirkuk province and areas in Diyala,www.ekurd.net Salahaddin and Nineveh provinces.

Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution which was due to be completely enforced in 2007 sets a roadmap for resolving the tenure dispute. However, it is yet to be fully enforced.

The KRG officials frequently point to forced displacement of Kurdish residents of the disputes areas under threats by insurgents. They label these displacements systematized efforts for changing the demography of the disputed areas.

Diyala province, a restive part of Iraq outside the Kurdish autonomous region of Kurdistan but home to many Kurds. The Diyala district, which includes a string of villages and some of Iraq's oil reserves, is home to about 175,000 Kurds, most of them Shiites.

In June 2006, the local council of Khanaqin proposed that the district be integrated into the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.

During the Arabisation policy of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, a large number of Kurdish Shiites were displaced by force from Khanaqin. They started returning after the fall of Saddam in 2003.

Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution is related to the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk city and other disputed areas like Khanaqin.

Kurdistan's government says oil-rich Khanaqin should be part of its semi-autonomous region, which it hopes to expand in a referendum in the future. In the meantime, Khanaqin and other so-called disputed areas remain targets of Sunni Arab insurgents opposed to Kurdish expansion and vowing to hold onto land seized during ex-dictator Saddam Hussein's efforts to "Arabize" the region.

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. 

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