No party has right to decide Kirkuk’s future, says KRG PM
ARBILNo party has the “sole right” to decide the future of the city of Kirkuk, Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister of northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), said April 5, while Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that political differences should be resolved – and national unity maintained – within a “constitutional framework.”
Speaking in Arbil, the KRG’s administrative capital, Barzani stressed that Kirkuk was “home to more than just Kurds.”
“Kirkuk is not only home to Kurdish people,” state-run Anadolu Agency quoted him as saying. “It’s also home to Arabs and Turkmen. No single party has the sole right to decide the city’s future.”
The 26 Kurdish members of the Kirkuk city assembly decided April 4 to hold a referendum regarding the annexation of the city by the KRG.
The meeting, which was convened with 26 of its Kurdish members after the nine Turkmen and six Arab members boycotted the gathering, said they were sending their referendum request to the Iraqi central government, adding that the assembly had also rejected the Iraqi Parliament’s decision against the Kirkuk Provincial Council that had decided to raise the KRG flag along with the Iraqi flag on official buildings.
In regard to the ongoing row over the recent appearance of the KRG flags in Kirkuk, Barzani cited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent remarks on the issue.
“Like President Erdoğan, we believe Kirkuk is not an exclusively Kurdish city,” Barzani said. “It is also home to Arabs, Turkmen and other elements. Kirkuk will remain the property of all the ethnicities that live there now and have always lived there.”
On April 4, Erdoğan rejected the notion that Kirkuk was an exclusively Kurdish city, saying: “Kirkuk belongs to Turkmen, Arabs and Kurds, and all others who live there.”
According to Barzani, the recent flag row was being exaggerated by certain parties for political reasons.
“The flag issue is being exaggerated. When Daesh [an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – ISIL] captured Mosul in 2014, [Kurdish] Peshmerga forces defended the city under the Kurdish regional flag,” he said.
Kirkuk is officially outside of the KRG’s borders but was occupied by KRG fighters during the ISIL occupation of Mosul in June 2014.
Meanwhile, al-Abadi said that political differences should be resolved – and national unity maintained – within a “constitutional framework.”
“Kirkuk’s local administration must comply with the Iraqi constitution and not make unilateral decisions,” al-Abadi said at a press conference.
“I urge Kirkuk’s governor and provincial council to work towards preserving the city’s unity,” he said.
Calling for reconciliation and the right of all citizens to live in peace, al-Abadi urged Kurdish council members to refrain from adopting “unilateral decisions” that could threaten national unity.
He went on to assert that Iraq’s neighbors were closely following the flag row in Kirkuk.
“We cannot give outsiders a justification to intervene in our domestic affairs,” al-Abadi said. “Parties must work together to settle our internal disputes.”