Talabani's Kirkuk proposal softens relations

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's proposal to Turkey to send a delegation to the strategically important northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk was considered by the Turkish capital as "a positive sign .

Talabani's Kirkuk proposal softens relations

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's proposal to Turkey to send a delegation to the strategicallyimportant northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, thefuture of which Ankara has serious concernsabout due to a huge recent influx of Iraqi Kurds, was considered by the Turkishcapital as "a positive sign clearly showing Iraqi Kurds want a betterrelationship with Turkey."

Riyadh was the venue forTalabani's proposal earlier this week when he met with Prime Minister RecepTayyip Erdoðan, who reiterated Turkey'sunease over developments in Kirkuk.Talabani answered him: "Is there a mistake that the Iraqis have made in regardsto Kirkuk? Senda delegation; let them carry out investigations in Kirkuk. Let them look into whether therecords of deeds have been erased. Let them carry out demographic studies. Thebase for these deeds is in Baghdad.Let Turkey's consulate in Mosul look into this."

Ankara is worried that Iraqi Kurds are tryingto take control of Kirkuk as part of their pushfor an independent state on Turkey'sborder and has repeatedly urged power-sharing among ethnic groups in theoil-rich city. Kirkuk lies just south of theKurdish autonomous region stretching across Iraq's northeast. Kurdish leaderswant to annex the city. Iraq'sconstitution calls for a census and referendum on the issue by the end of thisyear.

As of Friday, Foreign Ministry officials said that there was currently noconcrete plans for sending such a delegation to Kirkuk. "It is a fact that Talabani'sproposal is in itself a positive step reflecting the Iraqi Kurds' willingnessfor having a better, milder and -- most importantly -- appropriate relationshipwith Turkey," a senior diplomat told Today's Zaman, speaking on the conditionof anonymity.

Kirkuk is an ancient city that was once partof the Ottoman Empire, with a large minorityof ethnic Turkmens as well as Shiite and Sunni Arabs, Armenians and Assyrians.Since the US-led invasion in 2003, Kurdish forces in northern Iraq have rallied to reverse what they claim tobe the Arabization policy of Saddam Hussein, which purged Kirkuk and other oil-rich Kurdish areas andreplaced Kurds with Arab settlers.

Thousands of Kurdish settlers from northern Iraqhave flooded back into Kirkuk,colonizing the city's desert outskirts. Many believe the influx is a bid tochange the city's ethnic balance ahead of a 2007 census and referendum todecide whether Kirkuk will be annexed to Iraq's autonomous Kurdistanregion.

When reminded of possible interpretations of Talabani's proposal, such asthe Iraqi Kurds using a delegation sent by Turkey to the city for legitimizingtheir inappropriate activities, the same diplomat sounded confident and firm ason their position: "Ankara has no such worries because Turkey's stanceregarding Kirkuk is very well known by the Iraqi Kurds as well as by theinternational community."

Meanwhile, it is still a subject of debate whether there had been anyunderstanding over such proposal of inviting a Turkish delegation to Kirkuk between Talabani and Iraqi Kurdish leader MassoudBarzani, president of the de facto autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, prior to Talabani's meeting with Erdoðanin Riyadh.

However Ankara-based analysts underline that Barzani has recently becomeaware that the situation in Kirkukis becoming a center of focus in the international community more and more. Barzanihas also become aware that the situation in Kirkuk has had a negative impact on the imageof Iraqi Kurds in eyes of the international community, convincing him to giveconsent to this proposal, one analyst said.

The prime minister already greeted Talabani's suggestion with pleasure,saying a delegation would be sent, confirming that Ankara will be "analyzing this and making adecision very soon."

Erdoðan, who confirmed that his meeting with Talabani had gone well, wasquoted as telling Turkish journalists on his way back from Riyadh: "Talabanitold me 'We need Turkey. We cannot deny everything you have done for us. Wehave made some mistakes, but then, so have you.' They are particularlyuncomfortable with the polemic that appears in the media. I reminded him that Ihad called him, as the prime minister of Turkey, while he was in thehospital."

Dialogue with Iraqi leaders has become a matter of political controversy in Turkey after Chief of General Staff Gen. YaþarBüyükanýt, during a recent visit to the US capital, said he would not meetIraqi Kurdish leaders because they supported the outlawed Kurdistan Workers'Party (PKK). The issue turned divisive when the government expressed intent tohave talks with the same leaders to discuss security issues with Iraq. Buttension cooled off after a meeting of the influential National Security Council(MGK), which groups the president, top military commanders and the governmentleaders, late last month. A statement released after the meeting expressedbacking for "intensified diplomatic efforts," something that has been widelyinterpreted as a green light for talks with the Iraqi Kurds.

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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