Kurdistan flag flying in Kirkuk following a majority vote by the Provincial Council on March 28, 2017. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Turkish ambassador to Baghdad has reiterated Turkey’s opposition to the raising of the flag of Kurdistan over state buildings in Kirkuk and called the move a violation of the Iraqi constitution.
Fatih Yildiz said in a series of tweets that Turkey would not remain “silent” with regard to what he described as “violation of the Iraqi constitution.”
On Tuesday the Turkish ambassador held a number of meetings with different faction in the Iraqi parliament, including with three Kurdish members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) whose party holds the position of Kirkuk governorship.
Yildiz said that he was very clear in his meetings that Turkey rejects imposing Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk as a de facto.
“In all of our meetings we expressed our concerns over raising the Kurdistan flag over state buildings in Kirkuk as a fait accompli,” Yildiz said, tweeting in response to an earlier report from Rudaw.
Rudaw Turkish service cited Rebwar Rasul, one of the Kurdish MPs who met the ambassador, as saying that Turkey is not against the decision of the Kirkuk Provincial Council to raise the flag of Kurdistan in Kirkuk.
“I said that we are against raising the flag of Kurdistan Region over the Kikuk [state] buildings,” Yildiz said, saying that the Kurdish delegation understood this stance of Turkey very well.
Yildiz however said that not only did they express their concerns, but also informed the Kurdish delegation that they would observe the situation, vowing not to remain silent.
“With regard to this act which violates the Iraqi constitution, Turkey would not stay silent [while] it adheres by the principle of respect for Iraqi internal affairs. Turkey and the ambassador of Turkey in Baghdad will continue to observe the issue.”
The Kirkuk Provincial Council voted last Tuesday to raise the Kurdistan flag over state buildings in the province, some Turkmen and Arab representatives boycotted the session, following earlier concerns that the move may cause conflict among the city's various communities.
The central government in Baghdad has said that Kirkuk does not have the right to raise the Kurdistan flag as it is part of the disputed areas, areas claimed both by Baghdad and Erbil, and that it is still under the authority of the central government and therefore should abide by its regulations.
Governor Najmaldin Karim raised the Kurdistan flag alongside that of Iraq over the castle of Kirkuk on the eve of the Kurdish New Year, Newroz, on March 20, after he signed a decree to raise the Kurdistan flag a week before. He then asked the Kirkuk Provincial Council to vote raising the flag over state institutions, which the council did on Tuesday.
The multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk is home to Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen among others. It has been secured by Kurdish Peshmerga forces since mid-2014 after Iraqi government troops left the city ahead of a possible attack by radical Islamic insurgents when they took over large swathes of the country. The province has one of Iraq’s largest oil fields within its borders.
Karim defended the decision and said about two weeks ago that the Kurdistan flag does not represent the Kurds only.
“Kurdistan’s flag is not only the flag of the Kurds, it is the flag of all the social elements of Kirkuk. We tell those who want to instigate chaos: This flag is that of the Arabs and Turkmen, as well as the Kurds. It is the flag of Kurdistan, which is a place for everyone,” Karim said at last week’s Newroz event.