Ankara circumspect over reports on Kirkuk vote delay

The Turkish capital, which has long been seeking of a referendum on the status of the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, approached with caution Tuesday's reports from northern Iraq saying that the planned referendum has been delayed until the end of

Ankara circumspect over reports on Kirkuk vote delay
The Turkish capital, which has long been seeking of a referendum on the status of the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, approached with caution Tuesday's reports from northern Iraq saying that the planned referendum has been delayed until the end of May 2008, after Iraqis missed a series of deadlines on pre-referendum measures stipulated in the Iraqi Constitution.


Iraqi Kurdish parliamentarian Pale Bevani said the referendum stage cannot be reached without a revision in the relevant articles of the Iraqi Constitution and a subsequent referendum on the changes. His remarks were published on Monday on the Web site Peyamner, affiliated with Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

Foreign Ministry officials in Ankara told Today's Zaman on Tuesday that they have not yet received any official information regarding the postponement. However the same officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, recalled that the related Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution stipulating a Dec. 31 deadline this year for the Kirkuk referendum was a temporary article.

"If this article remains temporary, then there will a legal vacuum in holding the referendum in 2008. If not, then Iraqis should better clarify how they will hold such a referendum in 2008 by relying upon the same article," they said. "We've always said that a consensus should be sought among residents of the ancient city before holding such referendum. It is still not clear whether such consensus will be sought by all parties until the date which is reportedly suggested as the new date for the referendum," they noted.

Peyamner said the decision to postpone the referendum was made at a session in the Iraqi Parliament held at the beginning of this week. Peyamner also quoted Fouad Masoum, a Kurdish parliamentarian from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), as saying that postponement for a few months would not cause a problem for the Iraqi Kurds. "What matters is to take practical steps towards implementation and to ensure there will be continuity in these steps," he said.

The referendum for the northern city, provided for in the Iraqi Constitution, was due by the end of the year but has become bogged down by sectarian differences. Kurdish nationalists want Kirkuk, which sits atop 6 percent of the world's known oil reserves, included in their semi-autonomous region and the referendum held by year's end. But Arabs and Turkmen fear they will be pushed out of the city if the vote goes ahead and want the referendum either stalled or put off for good.

So far there has been no sign of a pre-referendum census -- due by the end of July -- or other important milestones like a "normalization" process mandated under Article 140 of Iraq's 2005 Constitution.

Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador in Baghdad, said last month that the referendum is unlikely to go ahead on schedule, citing preparations that have not yet been completed. "The timetable for the end of the year was set with an expectation that the preparations would move ahead in a way [that] they haven't," he said.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, on the other hand, yesterday declined to confirm that the referendum has been delayed. In remarks aired on CNN Türk yesterday, Zebari admitted that preparations have not been completed for the referendum but denied that the Iraqi Parliament has made a decision to postpone the vote.

Asked when the preparations would be completed, Zebari said there were commissions working on each step. "There has been no announcement of a delay. The referendum would still be held even if these steps are not taken. It will not be cancelled," he told CNN Türk.

Zebari criticized Turkish interest in the referendum debate, stating that the issue is an internal Iraqi matter. "We get very sensitive when Turkish politicians, journalists or even generals comment on a matter of our country," he said, likening the Turkish comments on Kirkuk to an interference by Greece in debates over how things in İzmir, a city on Turkey's Aegean coast, should be sorted out. Ankara,


Today's Zaman
Last Mod: 12 Eylül 2007, 13:16
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