The disputed Iraqi city of Kirkuk

Source: Reuters
 Aug 3 (Reuters) – Ratification of Iraq’s provincial elections law has been delayed by a bitter row over the disputed northern city of Kirkuk. Following are facts about Kirkuk:

THE CITY

Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, is the capital of Tamim province, which some Iraqis call Kirkuk province. Kirkuk sits atop one of Iraq’s key oil producing fields. The Kirkuk fields contain about 13 percent of Iraq’s proven reserves, which are the world’s third largest. The city is one of Iraq’s biggest. It lies just outside the largely autonomous Kurdistan region, which is predominantly Kurdish.

KIRKUK’S PEOPLE

Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen make up Kirkuk’s three main ethnic groups. The city is also home to Chaldean Catholic Christians and other minorities. Thousands of Arab families moved to Kirkuk in the 1970s and 1980s under former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s “Arabisation” policy, which involved the expulsion of thousands of Kurds and Turkmen. The current size of each ethnic group in Kirkuk is disputed, making population statistics unreliable.

THE HEART OF THE DISPUTE

Kurds consider Kirkuk their ancient capital and want it to become part of Kurdistan. Arabs and Turkmen want the city to remain under central government authority. Arabs and Turkmen believe Kirkuk has been intentionally stacked with Kurds to tip the demographic balance in their favour in any ballot. Iraq’s government called for calm on Friday after Kurdish councillors — in a symbolic gesture — called for the city to join Kurdistan. That move by the councillors triggered concern in neighbouring Turkey, which fears Iraq’s Kurds will wrest control of Kirkuk and turn it into the capital of a new state, possibly reigniting separatism among its own sizable Kurdish population.

THE ELECTION LAW

Kurds want provincial elections, due to be held this year or early next year, to go ahead in the city and surrounding province. The law was passed last month in a session boycotted by Kurds. The law delayed voting in Kirkuk, assigned fixed seat allocations to each ethnic group and replaced Kurdish Peshmerga security forces in the city with troops from other parts of Iraq. President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, rejected the law as unconstitutional, forcing it back to parliament.

THE UNITED NATIONS

The U.N. special representative to Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, calls Kirkuk the “mother of all issues” in the country and says a peaceful solution to the dispute is vital to Iraq’s stability. The United Nations has suggested a formula to resolve conflicts over several disputed areas near Kirkuk that could serve as a template for Kirkuk. Essentially this means determining administrative responsibility for the disputed areas and applying such a model to Kirkuk. As part of any solution, minorities would have to be protected.

WHAT ABOUT A REFERENDUM?

A referendum mandated by the constitution was to have been held by the end of 2007 to decide Kirkuk’s status but was delayed, partly to give the United Nations time to come up with its proposals.

For a link to Iraq Wraup click on [nRYA122529]

(Writing by Mohammed Abbas: Editing by Dean Yates and Sami Aboudi)
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