Revelers celebrated raising the Kurdistan flag at the PUK office in Kirkuk on Tuesday night. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s prime minister called on the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to lower the Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk, saying that hoisting the banner was “unconstitutional.”
"Kirkuk is a disputed city and located outside the borders that the constitution has drawn for the Kurdistan Region,” Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said in a published statement on Wednesday.
“The statute of the disputed areas will remain as such and no changes will be made until it is decided on through the constitution,” he said.
The PUK on Tuesday night raised the flag of Kurdistan over their offices in the disputed city, in defiance of a ban imposed when federal forces took control of the province in October 2017.
Acting governor Rakan Saeed al-Jabouri demanded it be removed Wednesday morning and warned
the PUK would be responsible for whatever consequences might result in the city where Kurdish and Iraqi forces briefly clashed during the takeover.
Kirkuk is part of the multi-ethnic disputed areas defined under Article 140 of the constitution that stipulate their status should be resolved via a referendum to determine whether these areas will remain part of federal Iraq or be absorbed by the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.
Article 140 was supposed to have been enacted more than a decade ago, but successive governments have failed to do so.
When first deciding to raise the Kurdistan banner alongside the Iraqi one in Kirkuk for Newroz in March 2017, the Kurdish leadership argued that both flags should be represented in the province until its status is resolved.
Abdul-Mahdi said he held an “urgent” phone call with President Barham Salih to urge him to fulfill his office as “protector of the Iraqi constitution.”
He also called on the Federal Court to weigh in and resolve the matter.