Middle East Turkey wary of Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk

Turkey wary of Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk
A large Kurdistan flag was hoisted at the historic Kirkuk Citadel on March 20, 2017. (Photo: Kurdistan24)

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday said the hoisting of the Kurdistan flag on official buildings in the Kurdish-majority Iraqi province of Kirkuk was “disconcerting.”

In a statement on the Turkish Ministry’s website, a spokesperson said the order by the Kurdish Governor of Kirkuk Najmaldin Karim was a “unilateral act that would jeopardize the reconciliation and stabilization efforts in the country.”

The statement also reminded of the process stipulated in the Iraqi Constitution regarding the disputed areas, which Kirkuk is a part of, between the Federal Government in Baghdad and the Erbil-based Kurdistan Region.

The Turkish official refrained from using the Region’s official full name, referring to it simply with a Turkish acronym “IKBY” equivalent to “The Iraqi Kurdish Regional Administration.”

“Such attempts run the risk of eroding the multicultural identity of Kirkuk, which embodies the social, cultural and economic wealth of Iraq,” read the website.

Karim issued a motion to his provincial council on Thursday calling for the use of the Kurdish language alongside Arabic at all official levels.

He also urged the display of the Kurdistan flag next to the Iraqi one throughout the province.

Turkey’s interests regarding Kirkuk stem from the presence of a sizeable ethnic Turkmen population in the city and the pre-1918 centuries-long Ottoman rule there.

Kirkuk’s city center and most of its rural environs have been under the control of the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga forces since the 2014 Islamic State (IS) blitzkrieg across northern and western Iraq.

Although Turkey refused to be a member of the 2003 US-led liberation of Iraq, for years Ankara maintained an active interventionist policy in Kurdish and Iraqi affairs assuming a role on behalf of the Turkmen.

Hours before Turkey’s reaction, Governor Karim defended his order for hoisting the Kurdistan flag.

He pointed to the flag being raised at Ankara and Istanbul airports during an official visit there by the Kurdistan Region’s President Masoud Barzani.

The only Iraqi objection so far came from the leader of the Iraqi Turkmen Front Arshad al-Salihi who alleged Governor Karim “was playing with fire.”

Moreover, Salihi called Karim’s decision “illegal, unconstitutional that would turn Kirkuk into a pool of blood.”

Despite an official line by the Ministry, Turkey’s leadership kept silent on the development in Kirkuk which Turkish leaders used to describe as “a red line” for the Kurds.

 

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany