Turkey warns Iraqi Kurds over autonomy bid

Turkish Foreign Minister Abd Allah Gul has warned the Iraqi Kurds that attempts to expand their autonomy in the north of Iraq could spark new tensions in the war-ravaged country.

    Iraqi Kurds demonstrate for Kirkuk to join self-rule area

    "We have warned against developments in northern Iraq or elsewhere in Iraq that could endanger the territorial integrity and political unity of Iraq. All regional countries have also done so," Gul said on Wednesday in response to a question about a Kurdish attempt to establish a federal system in Iraq.
     
    "If these dangerous developments continue, I am afraid that Iraq... will again become a center of suffering and tears," he told a news conference.

    The Iraqi Kurds, who have long had stormy ties with Ankara, recently sent a bill to the Iraqi Governing Council, calling for the establishment of a federal Iraq before a constitutional convention promised for 2005.

    The bill foresees the expansion of Kurdish autonomy from the three provinces which rebel factions ruled in defiance of Saddam Hussein, to include the oil-rich province of Tamim around Kirkuk and parts of ethnically mixed Nineveh and Diyala.

    The bill suggests these areas were in majority Kurdish hands at the time of the 1957 census and had their ethnic makeup changed because of a deliberate policy of "Arabisation" carried out by Saddam's regime.

    Autonomy fears 

    Ankara fears that advanced autonomy for the Iraqi Kurds could set an example for their restive cousins in adjoining southeast Turkey, where a bloody Kurdish rebellion for self-rule has only recently died down.

    "If these dangerous developments continue, I am afraid that Iraq... will again become a center of suffering and tears"

    Abd Allah Gul,
    Turkish Foreign Minister

    "There has been an agreement on the territorial integrity and political unity of Iraq. The signatures of the United States and the Iraqis have been put under these basic principles," Gul said, referring to a joint statement the parties issued in Ankara earlier this year.

    Gul also warned Iraqi Kurds against "attempts to upset the demographic structure" of Kirkuk, the major oil centre in the north which the Kurds also claim.

    Thousands of Iraqi Kurds demonstrated Monday in Kirkuk to demand that the town should be included in the future autonomous Kurdish region.

    Kirkuk is also home to Arabs and Turkmens, an Iraqi minority of Turkish origin, whose rights, Ankara says, should be protected against Kurdish dominance in the region.


      

    SOURCE: AFP


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