ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The decision to hoist the Kurdish flag at official places in Kirkuk province will have a destabilizing impact on the political process in Iraq and harm reconciliation efforts in the country, says the spokesperson of the Turkish Foreign Ministry Hüseyin Müftüoğlu.
Müftüoğlu’s comments were in response to the Kirkuk governor’s earlier move to officially hoist the Kurdish flag across the province last week. Governor Najmadin Karim has asked Kirkuk’s provincial council to hoist the Kurdish flag alongside the Iraqi flag at official offices during the Kurdish New Year celebrations (Newroz).
Although patrolled by Kurdish Peshmerga and security forces, Kirkuk is part of a constitutional article that defines the province as a “disputed territory” where Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen have territorial claims. Hoisting Kurdish flags in Kirkuk by private citizens are common, but the official flag at government offices is the Iraqi national flag.
Flying the Kurdish flag has often been met with sensitivity from other groups in Kirkuk which has made the governor’s latest move controversial.
“The Iraqi constitution has addressed the disputed territories,” said Müftüoğlu. “The constitution refers to a phase before which any unilateral action in regard to Kirkuk will harm reconciliation efforts and destabilize and endanger Iraq,” he added.
“Such efforts will endanger multicultural setting of Kirkuk where in fact Iraq’s social, cultural and economic wealth are put together,” Müftüoğlu said.
In response, Ahmad Askari, member of the Kirkuk Provincial Council said: “The comments of the Turkish foreign minister are a clear meddling in Iraq and Kurdistan Region’s internal affairs. Raising the Kurdish flag is a domestic issue and has nothing to do with Turkey.”
Askari wondered “Why is it okay to hoist the Kurdish flag in Ankara and Istanbul but not in Kirkuk? We haven’t thrown away the flag of Iraq and only insist on raising the Kurdish flag next to it.”