Turkey PM defends foreign minister's
By Ekurd.net staff writers
August 6, 2012
Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday defended his foreign
minister's visit to the disputed northern Iraqi city
of Kirkuk last week, which infuriated Baghdad.
Photo: AP •
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ANKARA,— Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday defended his foreign
visit to the
disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk last week,
which infuriated Baghdad.
His visit to Kirkuk comes a day after Turkish
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Iraq's
semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan and
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.
It is only normal for "a minister bearing a red
passport to visit the regional administration (in
northern Iraq) and then travel to Kirkuk, 40
kilometres from (Erbil) to meet with his kinsmen,"
Erdogan told the ATV television station.
Kirkuk province is part of a swathe of disputed
territory in northern Iraq that along with oil
contracts are the two main points of contention
between Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional
government in Erbil.
Davutolgu visited leaders of Kirkuk's Turkmen
community, with which Ankara has long had close
ties, as well as religious and historical sites
including the city's Ottoman cemetery.
The Iraqi foreign ministry said that it was done
without approval from Baghdad.
On Sunday, Erdogan said growing energy bonds between
Turkey and northern Iraq were also a source of
uneasiness for the Baghdad government.
The oil dispute between Baghdad and the Kurdistan
government in Erbil has worsened, with the
autonomous region looking to ramp up oil production
and export capabilities. The region has also cut off
oil exports to Iraq in a payment row.
Adding to the controversy, Turkey has for months
hosted Iraq's fugitive Sunni Arab vice president,
Tareq al-Hashemi, who is wanted on charges of
running a death squad and is being tried in
Turkish media recently reported that Hashimi was
granted residence permit by Turkish authorities to
avoid visa problems during his trips abroad but that
was not confirmed by a Turkish foreign ministry
spokesman contacted by AFP.
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
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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