Kurdistan flag raised in Kirkuk castle on the eve of the Kurdish New Year, Newroz. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region –In a telephone conversation with his Iraqi counterpart Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has raised concerns about flying the Kurdish flag in Kirkuk and called it a Turkmen city.
Yildirim said that he holds the same position as that of the Iraqi government on the matter.
"We are supporting the Iraqi government on this issue,” Yildirim said in a television interview with a Turkish TV. “If need be, we can enter dialogue with the UN and other institutions," he added, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
Yildirim made the phone call to Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi on Friday, a day before the Iraqi parliament voted that only the Iraqi flag should fly in Kirkuk.
“We support Baghdad,” Yildirim said. “We do not accept a fait accompli. We think a decision like this, which aims to change the demographic makeup of Kirkuk, is not correct. This is clearly against Iraqi constitution."
Yildirim also claimed on Saturday that raising the flag is both in violation of the Iraqi constitution, and against the history of Kirkuk, “a Turkmen city” he said in a tweet.
The head of Kurdistan’s Department for Foreign Relations Falah Mustafa refused to comment on Yildirim's comments, when contacted by Rudaw English, saying that his government has an official spokesperson.
The spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was not immediately available for comment.
Yildirim’s comments come as the President of Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani welcomed the decision to raise the Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk, calling it “normal and legal”.
Various Kurdish officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, and Kosrat Rasul, deputy secretary-general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), not only hailed flying the Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk, but also called it the Jerusalem of Kurdistan, referring to an old sentiment that Kirkuk is a Kurdish city.
Rasul said that the decades-long struggle of the Kurdish Peshmerga was “to raise the sacred flag of Kurdistan over every inch of our country, in particular in the head of Kurdistan, the Jerusalem city of Kirkuk."
The acting head of Kirkuk Provincial Council said that they refuse to abide by the decision passed by the Iraqi parliament on Saturday condemning the raising of Kurdish flag in the city.
“It is impossible for Kurdistan’s flag to be lowered again,” said Rebwar Talabani.
The local government in Kirkuk raised the Kurdistan flag alongside the Iraqi one over the Kirkuk governorate building last week after a vote by the provincial council. Some Turkmen and Arab representatives in the Kirkuk council boycotted the vote.
Twenty-six members of the Council voted in favor of the motion, 25 of whom were from the Kurdish-led Brotherhood bloc with Turkmens, Arabs and Assyrians each holding three seats. One Arab member from the Arab list also voted in favor of the motion.
The council also named March 28—the day the flag was hoisted—a day to be celebrated annually.