Turkey urges Iraqi gov’t over Kirkuk’s demographic status
Turkey has welcomed the central Iraqi government’s capture of Kirkuk from the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), but has urged Baghdad to take steps to fix the ruined demographic structure of the oil-rich city in reference to forcefully displaced Turkmens over the decades.
“The fact that the Iraqi central government has taken control of Kirkuk is a positive development. But a governance system needs to be brought about to reestablish the city’s damaged demographic structure in line with the historical depth of the region,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Oct. 17 in an address to his parliamentary group.
“Otherwise problems will continue,” he said.
Yıldırım’s statement followed news that Iraqi troops have pushed the KRG peshmerga as well as members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from Kirkuk and surrounding areas in an offensive that lasted less than 24 hours. The KRG had included Kirkuk and nearby regions within the scope of the controversial independence referendum on Sept. 25, although the oil-rich city is not a part of the territories of the autonomous KRG.
Turkey’s prime minister recalled that Turkmens made up the majority of the city’s population 50 years ago, but many of them had to leave Kirkuk because of pressure and exclusion over the years. The demographic structure of the city has been changed through systematic and de facto means, Yıldırım said, adding that land registrations in Kirkuk city had been burned by the Kurdish peshmerga in recent years in a bid to implement fait accompli over the status of the city. “We have never accepted this,” he said.
Kirkuk’s status is not defined in the current Iraqi constitution, which stipulates that a referendum be held before a government model is imposed on the city.
“We will continue to follow the developments in Kirkuk. Our contributions for the meticulous protection of the demographic structure of the city will also continue. Our sensitivity and attitudes towards all different ethnic groups are open and clear and will remain so,” he added.
Yıldırım also added Turkey’s sanctions do not target civilian people, but the KRG administration, recalling Turkey’s recent decision to close its airspace to flights to and from northern Iraqi airports.