World Bulletin / News Desk
The Iraqi central government on Wednesday denied a request for a visa from Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli, who was planning to visit Kirkuk during the Islamic holiday Eid al-Fitr.
The Iraqi government last week announced that it had decided to reconsider ties with Turkey after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu paid a surprise visit to an oil-rich Iraqi city claimed by both the central government and the country's autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) without first consulting central Iraqi authorities.
The control of Kirkuk, a city populated by Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs, has long been a matter of contention between the Iraqi central government and Iraqi Kurds, who hope to annex the city to their autonomous region in the north. Kirkuk is currently under the control of the Iraqi government.
Turkey, too, has long opposed Kurdish rule over Kirkuk, out of concern that this would encourage separatist sentiment among its own Kurdish population.
Iraqi central authorities, in turn, have accused Turkey of violating diplomatic procedures, saying that the foreign minister neither asked for nor obtained permission to enter Kirkuk. The latest move by Iraq to deny Bahçeli's request for a visa is likely to further escalate tensions between Iraq and Turkey.
Turkey has been hosting Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraq's Sunni vice president who faces charges of terrorism in his own country. Also to the chagrin of the Iraqi government, Turkey has recently started importing crude oil from northern Iraq under a deal with the KRG administration. Turkey separately imports oil from Iraq through a twin pipeline that runs from Kirkuk to the Mediterranean oil terminal of Ceyhan.
The Maliki government has slammed Turkey for pursuing “hostile” policies in the region and interfering in Iraqi affairs, while Ankara says Maliki's Shiite-led government is trying to monopolize power by suppressing Sunni Arabs and other groups.