Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Turkey carefully watches the situation in Iraq

As the violence in Iraq continues and the devastation mounts with each passing day, Iraq’s neighbors keep a watchful eye. Turkey is one such neighbor. Sumedha Senanayake of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, proposed why in an article Tuesday entitled, “Turkey keeps a nervous eye on Kirkuk.” Turkey, who has long disputed with the Kurdish population within its own borders, “fears that if the Iraqi Kurds annex Kirkuk into their autonomous region, they will eventually want to carve out an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq and thus stoke separatist desires in Turkey's own sizable Kurdish population.”

In response to a census set to be taken later this year to determine whether Kiruk and its surroundings will join Iraqi Kurdistan - as a result of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution - the Turkish Global Strategy Institute held a symposium last week entitled “Kirkuk 2007.” Set to discuss the future of Kirkuk, representatives from Iraqi Sunni, Shiite, Turkoman, Christian and Assyrian groups participated; however, not a single Iraqi Kurd was invited. One representative, Sadettin Ergec, leader of the Iraqi Turkoman Front, proposed that the city be placed under state control. He commented, “"Kirkuk is not a normal province. Rather, it is Iraq's national asset. Therefore, all the Iraqis should have a say in its future and the city.”

Reactions to and implications of the conference were mixed. Several Kurdish lawmakers in the Iraqi parliament condemned the conference. A member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turhan Comez, stated, “Turkey should announce that it will not recognize the results of a referendum on the future of Kirkuk under these conditions. And we should also announce that we are going to intervene if civil war erupts in Kirkuk.” One Turkish newspaper, “Ortadogu,” even reported last week that Turkish troops were deployed last year along the Iraq and Iran borders for a time when they might be needed to attack Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) fighters and protect the Turkoman population in Iraq. U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns emphasized in a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Kirkuk continues to remain a matter of the “Iraqis, since they are sovereign in their country.”

For the full article, click here.


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