We won’t allow PKK presence in Kirkuk: Iraqi ambassador

We won’t allow PKK presence in Kirkuk: Iraqi ambassador

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
We won’t allow PKK presence in Kirkuk: Iraqi ambassador

Hundreds of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants have been active in Kirkuk but the central government is determined to clear Iraqi territory of foreign groups, Iraqi Ambassador to Turkey Hisham al-Alawi has said.

“Obviously this is a concern to us and to the local population. Our government is keen to ensure that the Iraqi security forces control and exercise authority over the whole province. We don’t want any foreign troops, including the PKK, in Kirkuk or anywhere else,” al-Alawi told the Hürriyet Daily News.“Obviously this is a concern to us and to the local population.

Our government is keen to ensure that the Iraqi security forces control and exercise authority over the whole province. We don’t want any foreign troops, including the PKK, in Kirkuk or anywhere else,” al-Alawi told the Hürriyet Daily News.

The ambassador referred to a number of reports regarding the previous presence of PKK members in oil-rich Kirkuk province, which is subject to recent tension between the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central government.

PKK members try to display their presence in various ways. Some of them try to terrorize the local population,” al-Alawi said.

The envoy referred to some reports of clashes in the south of Kirkuk on late Oct. 15 between Iraqi security forces of the central government and peshmerga units under the control of KRG Vice President Kosret Ali, saying the latter were supported by some elements of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Oil fields to be under control of central government

The ambassador said Iraqi government forces have been deployed in Kirkuk in response to the September independence referendum by the KRG, adding that it is the “government’s duty to protect all its citizens” and they had to intervene because of attacks on Turkmens and other groups.

“For the past three years, the local peshmerga have controlled the oil fields in Kirkuk. This is constitutionally illegal. There is a lack of transparency about where the revenue has gone,” he said.

It is the central government’s duty to ensure those oil fields are fully controlled and the employees of the northern oil company are able to do their job and the revenues will go to the national budget, al-Alawi noted.

Hashd al-Shaabi has ‘limited role’

Al-Alawi also stressed that the Shiite militia Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) only had “a limited role” in the Kirkuk operation and central government forces of the Iraqi army, the federal police, and counterterrorism units were used to exercise full control in key institutions and oil fields. 

“Hashd al-Shaabi did not play a role in achieving these goals. But they are there in the periphery of Kirkuk,” he said, refuting claims that Iranian Feneral Qasem Soleimani was in charge of the Hashd al-Shaabi in the operation to oust the peshmerga. 

“All the security forces, including the Hashd al-Shaabi, are under the control of the prime minister who is the commander in chief. We don’t have any units that are under the control of Iran or Qassem Soleimani,” said al-Alawi.

Touching on a visit by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım to Baghdad that was scheduled for Oct. 15-16 but postponed at the last minute, the ambassador said he heard on Oct. 14 that the visit would not go ahead. When he contacted Turkish officials, Ankara had proposed for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to pay a visit to Turkey as it was his turn for an official visit. 

Another option would be for the Turkish foreign minister, energy minister, and transportation minister to visit Baghdad in order to discuss bilateral ties and punitive joint measures that can be taken against the KRG, he added.

If the Iraqi government cannot take the control of the Habur border gate then it should be closed and another alternative route should be activated from Turkey to Iraq, the envoy also stated. 

“We have requested for Ankara to stop dealing with the KRG when it comes to the export of oil … We are not asking the Turkish authorities to stop oil exports. We are simply asking for the transparent, full supervision of the Iraqi central government over the exports, in line with the Iraqi constitution, and for revenues to go into an account for the national budget rather than to unknown personal accounts in control of Masoud Barzani and his team,” al-Alawi said, adding that Baghdad proposes to increase the capacity of the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline after repairing the current damage.

Reconstruction of Mosul 

The ambassador also revealed his government’s offer to Ankara to allocate the revenue from oil exports from Kirkuk in order to invest in the reconstruction of Iraq’s damaged cities after the offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

“That could potentially provide business opportunities for Turkish companies: A win-win situation for both governments,” said al-Alawi.

Asked about revenues from the export of northern Iraqi oil to world markets via Turkey, he said the Baghdad government “has not received any revenue since the beginning of 2016.”  

“Your officials have told me clearly that they have not been a part of the oil trade from the region and Kirkuk. They do not have enough information about where the revenues have gone,” he said.

The Iraqi ambassador to Turkey also underlined the need for Ankara and Baghdad’s cooperation to prevent the movement of ISIL members across the border.

“Some [ISIL] members and some of their leaders cross the borders illegally. They have settled in different cities around Turkey,” he said, noting that hundreds of ISIL members and their families who are Turkish citizens have been captured after operations in Mosul and Tel Afar.

Iraq, PKK, Kirkuk