15 October 2004
'Barzani's Kirkuk remarks are extremely worrying for us,' says Osman Koruturk, Turkey's special envoy to Iraq
Tan says Turkey won't accept fait accompli on Kirkuk
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News
Turkey has warned Iraqi-Kurds that Kirkuk is like a time bomb and any forced imposition on the demographic structure of this ethnically-mixed city would set that bomb off, leading to violence across Iraq and sparking undesired developments of which Turkey cannot remain a bystander, Turkish sources said.
Iraqi-Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani visited Ankara this week and held talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. Despite the soft tone on both sides, Kirkuk remained a source of tension that Ankara tried to settle through warnings to Barzani, sources revealed.
Kurds claim they are the majority in Kirkuk, which sits atop six percent of the world's known oil reserves, and have been moving to the city and neighboring area over recent months to "reclaim" property they say was forcefully taken from them as part of Saddam Hussein's Arabization campaign over the past decades.
The movement is creating tension among the city's Arab and Turkmen population and is viewed with suspicion by Ankara as an attempt to change the demographic composition of the city ahead of parliamentary elections slated for January.
"Ankara would not turn a blind eye to any fait accompli concerning the status of Kirkuk," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Namik Tan told reporters in Ankara yesterday.
He warned there should be no attempt aimed at changing the population structure of the city and added that Kirkuk's status would be determined in any permanent Constitution that would be drafted by the Iraqi Parliament after elections in January, something that will be followed by a referendum.
Ankara told Barzani it would not remain indifferent to possible suffering by "Turkmen brothers," just like it did not when hundreds of thousands of Kurds from northern Iraq fled over its borders while escaping from oppression at the hands of Saddam Hussein in the last decade, according to the sources.
"Turkey would not remain a bystander if tens of thousands of Turkmens flooded over its borders escaping potential violence in Kirkuk," officials told Barzani.
Kirkuk not merely Iraq's internal business
Speaking after Barzani's departure, Turkish Foreign Ministry officials warned yesterday that Kirkuk was not merely an internal matter for Iraq and said neighboring countries also had sensitivities.
"Neighboring countries and the international community have sensitivities over the status of Kirkuk," said ministry spokesman Tan, warning that Iraq should be at peace in the future with its neighbors.
"Kirkuk is not only an internal business for Iraq; it concerns its neighbors as well," Osman Koruturk, Turkey's special envoy for Iraq told the private NTV television. "Kirkuk is where the risk of ethnic clashes is highest in Iraq. We as Turkey are determined not to let what happens in Iraq to negatively affect us."
Barzani had said Iraq was an Iraqi city with a Kurdish identity after talks in Ankara. Koruturk said claims that "Kirkuk is a Kurdish city" would be against the principle that its status would be determined according to the Iraqi people's desire.
"Barzani's Kirkuk remarks are extremely worrying for us," he said, probably referring to Barzani's past statements in which he described the city as the "heart of Kurdistan."
Ankara also told the Kurdish leader that Turkey was not opposed to a federal administration in Iraq, provided that Iraq's territorial integrity was protected and such an administration was endorsed by the Iraqi people in a future referendum.
14 October 2004