Kurdish party says self-rule inevitable
Wednesday 02 February 2005
|Barzani heads one of two main Kurdish groups|
Kurdish self-rule is inevitable if not imminent, according to Kurdistan Democratic Party chief Masud Barzani.
Commenting on an almost unanimous vote for independence in an unofficial referendum held on 30 January, Masud Barzani said on Wednesday that "when the right time comes it will become a reality".
"Self-determination is the natural right of our people, and they have the right to express their desires," he added.
Barzani heads one of the two main Kurdish groups which control Iraq's northern Kurdish zone.
The KDP leader was speaking three days after more than 1.9 million Iraqi Kurds some 95% of those asked voted for independence in an informal survey conducted by volunteers.
Iraqi Kurds have long pushed for independence, but Turkey, Iran and Syria all with substantial Kurdish minorities oppose the establishment of Kurdish state on their borders.
The referendum was held on the day of Iraq's historic elections on Sunday. Its organisers surveyed Kurds as they emerged from polling stations across northern Iraq.
|Kurds make up around 15% of
Iraq's population of 27 million|
The volunteers handed out postcard-sized cards with two boxes printed on them next to two flags one Kurdish and one Iraqi. The question 'What do you want?' was written at the top of the card and those polled were asked to tick one box.
By Wednesday, more than 2.1 million Kurdish votes had been counted, according to organisers who are still awaiting results from the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk.
Witnesses said some children filled them in and there was often no restriction on people taking more than one form.
Although the survey was unofficial and not monitored by any independent body, many Kurds said its results were proof of a groundswell of support for the eventual creation of an independent Kurdish state.
"We want to make sure that the Kurdish people do not suffer any more, and to show that Kurdish people have the will and ability to live in freedom," said Shamal Hawizy, a senior member of the Kurdistan Referendum Movement.
|Bremer declined to meet Kurd
representatives last year|
The movement, founded in October 2003, is funded through donations and assisted by Kurdish authorities, who paid for the referendum's cost of around $150,000.
Last year, the movement collected 1.7 million signatures calling for a petition demanding a similar referendum.
Paul Bremer, who was in charge of Iraq's provisional authority at the time, declined to meet Kurdish leaders to accept their petition and the referendum never took place.
Kurds make up around 15% of Iraq's population of 27 million. They are expected to emerge as a leading force when results are announced from Sunday's national vote.
Most Iraqis oppose Kurdish secession. The international community says it is committed to establishing a unified but federal Iraq in which Kurds have a degree of autonomy.
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“If you asked me whether in 10 years there will be an independent Kurdistan, I'd say yes”
former US diplomat
"The referendum is just a statement that a very large proportion of the Kurdish population up there wants independence," one western diplomat in Baghdad said.
"That feeling exists, and it would be silly to deny it, but Kurdish national leaders and Kurdish regional leaders understand that an independent Kurdish state now is not possible."
Others said the creation of such a state was only a matter of time.
"When you have a democracy it's almost impossible to hold people in a country that they hate," said Peter Galbraith, a visiting former US diplomat familiar with the region.
"If you asked me whether in 10 years there will be an independent Kurdistan, I'd say yes."
Turkey warns Iraqi Kurds
Tuesday 01 February 2005
|Gul says the situation has reached dangerous proportions|
Turkey has warned that it could take action if Kurdish attempts to take control of Kirkuk in northern Iraq plunge the oil-rich city into ethnic turmoil.
In comments published in a newspaper interview on Monday, Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul expressed renewed concerns that more Kurds than those expelled under Saddam Hussein's rule had settled in Kirkuk.
"We are observing that the situation has reached dangerous proportions," Gul told the English-language Turkish Daily News.
He added the demographic structure of the city, which is also home to large numbers of Turkmen a community of Turkish descent backed by Ankara had been altered.
"Now our fear is the possibility that these gross changes in the demography of Kirkuk could trigger an ethnic confrontation, which has not been seen so far."
"If our brothers [Turkmen] are not treated well, if they are subjected to oppression, such developments will hurt us deeply, and in a democratic society administrations cannot remain indifferent, or merely spectators, to such developments," Gul said.
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“Now our fear is the possibility that these gross changes in the demography of Kirkuk could trigger an ethnic confrontation, which has not been seen so far”
Turkish foreign minister
The minister did not say what action Turkey could take but stressed that Ankara had no territorial ambitions over Iraq and respects its borders.
"Our borders are clear. We have no territorial designs. We have no territorial demands on any country. When we talk about the integrity of Iraq, we mean the internationally recognised borders of Iraq," Gul said.
Ankara says that many of the Kurds who moved to Kirkuk after the US-led occupation of Iraq in March 2003 and who voted in Sunday's elections have no bonds with the city and sees the influx as part of a Kurdish design to take control of the city and make it the capital of a future independent Kurdish state.
Media blitzing Barzani
Many Turkish newspapers on Monday ran front-page reports quoting Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, who heads one of two Kurdish factions controlling the north, as saying that Iraqi Kurds would one day have their own independent state.
"The elections end, their mask comes off," said the daily Aksam, referring to the Kurds, while the Vatan daily headlined "Barzani challenges Turkey".
|Turkey fears Iraqi Kurds will try
to form an independent state|
Kurdish independence is a nightmare scenario for Turkey, which fears that such a development will fan separatism among its own Kurds in the southeast of the country and create turmoil in the region.
In a bid to allay Ankara's concerns, a top US official said after talks with Gul that Washington supported the unity of Iraq and that the settlement of the dispute over Kirkuk would not be left to a certain ethnic group.
"The issue of Kirkuk is an important one... It is going to be worked on by the Iraqis from the point of view that this is not a matter for one group or another but for the Iraqi people in general. We support that view," Douglas Feith, the outgoing US undersecretary of defence for policy, said.
Washington "strongly believes that it is crucial that the territorial integrity of Iraq be preserved ... and that problems like Kirkuk be solved in a way that reinforces the unity and territorial integrity of the country", he added.
But Turkish officials remain cautious, welcoming the Iraqi elections as a step towards democracy in the war-torn country but also warning that they will keep a close eye on the results of the vote in Kirkuk.
"When making this assessment [of the poll results], the implications of the attempts to alter the demographic structure in northern Iraq will also be taken into consideration," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a written statement.
Turkey slams US over Iraqi Kurds
Monday 31 January 2005
|Iraqi Kurds voted in large numbers in Sunday's elections|
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has criticised the US for failing to halt what he called Kurdish efforts to dominate the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq.
Turkey believes Iraqi Kurds, who voted in large numbers in Sunday's election, are trying to wrest control of Kirkuk at the expense of local Arabs and Turkish-speaking Turkmen.
Ankara fears this could herald a concerted drive to build an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq, which might in turn reignite separatism among the Kurds of southeastern Turkey.
"Some people are looking the other way while mass migration [of Kurds to Kirkuk] takes place," the Wall Street Journal on Monday quoted Erdogan as saying in an interview given on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
"This is going to create major difficulties in the future," Erdogan said.
He added that US President George Bush had assured him he would look into the matter, but had done nothing so far.
|Erdogan says Turkey is taking its own precautions over Kirkuk|
Many Arabs and Turkmens in Kirkuk appeared to boycott Sunday's Iraqi elections in protest at what they saw as voting rules favouring the Kurds.
Erdogan, who gave his interview before the Iraqi election, said Turkey was taking its own precautions over Kirkuk, but declined to give details.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Turkey could not stand passively by if Kurds took control of Kirkuk, although he stopped short of saying Ankara would send troops into Iraq.
"Our borders are clear. We have no territorial designs," he told the English-language newspaper Turkish Daily News. But he added: Sometimes you may not wish to embark on a road but developments force you to take certain actions ... In democratic countries, governments don't have the luxury of ignoring public sentiment."
American excuse blasted
Erdogan also took the US to task for failing to crack down on an estimated 5000 Turkish Kurdish fighters holed up in the mountains of northern Iraq.
"Their excuse is that they are overwhelmed [in Iraq] but they accept that our demands are just demands and have promised they will deal with it. We have not yet seen action," said Erdogan.
Ankara blames fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for the deaths of more than 30,000 people during a 20-year armed struggle to carve out a Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey.
Both Kirkuk and the PKK are expected to feature high on the
agenda in Ankara on Monday in talks between Turkish officials
and the Pentagon's outgoing undersecretary of defence for policy, Douglas Feith, a key architect of the Iraq war.