Iraqi Kurdish leader calls for Kirkuk coexistence
The President of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, Nechirvan Barzani, called for "peaceful cooperation and coexistence" in the disputed city and province of Kirkuk.
It is currently controlled by the Iraqi central government.
Three ethnic groups make up the vast majority of the population there - Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds.
Speaking with fellow Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) members, Barzani emphasised Kirkuk must be secure and benefit from reconstruction efforts and other services, according to The New Arab's Arabic sister service, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
"We are very sad with the current circumstances in Kirkuk and its present administration, because it is an imposed administration and not one elected by the people of Kirkuk," he said.
Barzani said the KDP wishes to see "Kirkuk's oil and natural resources [become] a reason for its progress and job creation for its youth".
He also insisted his party doesn’t want the area to get caught up in "national fight" or a "takeover or war or coups".
The Kurdistan leader indicated he feels Article 140 of Iraq's constitution is the way to fix the issue of Kirkuk, calling those against this provision, "hostile to peace and the constitution".
The article necessitated a referendum be held in 2007 on whether or not for Kirkuk to join the Kurdistan region.
Under the rule of former dictator Saddam Hussein, Arabs were encouraged to move to the city in order to alter its demographic make-up.
Article 140 also says that this should be undone prior to the proposed referendum, but this did not occur and the referendum never happened.
In 2019, Iraq's Federal Supreme Court decided to maintain Article 140 in a 2019 ruling.
"We look forward to building full cooperation between the Kurds and all components of the original Kirkuk," said Barzani.
"We will seek to be the next Kirkuk administration as you and all its component parts desire."
The Kurds, who run an autonomous government in Erbil, and the federal government dispute ownership of Kirkuk's lucrative oilfields, a discord often exploited by IS.https://t.co/s3S2EDYk0x— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) May 6, 2021
The Baghdad government took control of Kirkuk province and other disputed Iraqi areas in 2017. Kurdish forces had taken control of Kirkuk in 2014, when Islamic State extremists seized most of northern Iraq.
However, a Kirkuk Arab League media group member who spoke with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on condition of anonymity said that Barzani was exaggerating in his remarks, and that he was trying to help KDP candidates running for election in the province.