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 Turkish foreign minister visits disputed Iraq city of Kirkuk

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Turkish foreign minister visits disputed Iraq city of Kirkuk  2.8.2012  
By Ekurd.net staff writers







 
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) receives a souvenir from the governor of Kirkuk Najmaldin Karim, in the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, on August 2, 2012, during a rare visit by a high-ranking Turkish official to the city. His visit comes a day after Davutoglu visited Kurdistan and met Kurdistan president, Massoud Barzani, for talks that focused on the conflict in Syria, and at a time of notably cool relations between Baghdad and Ankara. Photo: Getty Images
 
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August 2, 2012

KIRKUK, Iraq's border with Kurdistan region, — Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday visited the disputed north Iraq city of Kirkuk, which is controlled by Baghdad but also claimed by the autonomous Kurdistan region.

His visit comes a day after Davutoglu visited Kurdistan and met the region's president, Massoud Barzani, for talks that focused on the conflict in Syria, and at a time of notably cool relations between Baghdad and Ankara.

Davutoglu met Kirkuk province officials during a rare visit by a high-ranking Turkish official to the city amid tight security, according to an AFP journalist.

"We see Kirkuk as rich in its resources and diversity, so it will be one of the leading cities in the Middle East, and we as Turks are ready to serve Kirkuk and Iraq," Davutoglu told journalists.

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,
www.ekurd.net 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. 

Relations between Iraq and Turkey have been chilly of late, with disputes over issues including Kurdistan exporting oil without Baghdad's approval to its neighbour to the north.

Davutoglu met Barzani on Wednesday.

"The situation in Syria is dangerous and catastrophic, and the behaviour of the Syrian regime and its policies of creating a sectarian and ethnic conflict are on the rise, and developments in Syria represent a threat to regional stability and security," a statement on the meeting on Barzani's website said.

The two sides agreed to cooperate on efforts "to help the Syrian people to achieve their legitimate aspirations for a free and diverse democratic Syria," it said.

It also said that "we will look into any attempt to exploit the gap in power by any extremist group or organisation, and something like this represents a future threat and should be solved by mutual coordination.

"The new Syria should be free of extremist and terrorist groups and organisations."

Turkey has expressed concern about the possible presence in Syria of groups including Al-Qaeda and Turkish foe the Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK.

The PKK has several times proposed peaceful solutions regarding Kurdish problem, Turkey has always refused saying that it will not negotiate with “terrorists”.

Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

The PKK wants constitutional recognition for the Kurds, regional self-governance and Kurdish-language education in schools.

PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

The PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list.

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

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