mardi 17 novembre 2009

Turkey’s democratic initiative welcomed in troubled Kerkuk

Sivan Abdullah (L), a Kurd, and Ihsan Yemenji, a Turkmen, have called each other brothers for 17 years.

A government initiative to solve the decades-old Kurdish issue through democratic reforms has been welcomed in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, the control of which is disputed among Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens.

Residents believe the democratic reform efforts will reduce the sympathy in the city for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Before the planned Iraqi general elections in January of next year, there is growing enthusiasm among Kirkuk residents regarding Turkey’s democratic initiative. People in Kirkuk, which was once a main source of conflict between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds running northern Iraq, are now optimistic that Ankara’s Kurdish initiative will have positive repercussions in the disputed city as well.

Turkmeneli Party Deputy Chairman Ali Mahdi, who is also a member of the city council, told Today’s Zaman that improved relations between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds will benefit the Turkmens in Kirkuk as well and asked Turkish officials to visit Kirkuk, recalling a recent visit by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to Arbil.

For Islamic Party of Kurdistan Deputy Chairman and Kirkuk City Council member Ibrahim Khalil Rashid, the democratic initiative is undermining support for the PKK in Kirkuk. “The democratic initiative is very vital for Turkey. If it ends with peace, it will be quite good. It will also positively affect us. The initiative is being closely monitored here, too. We are watching developments. Now there is much support for Turkey.

Previously, there was support for the PKK, but not now; people have started to ask: ‘Turkey has provided a chance for you to return to Turkey. There is a democratic initiative about the situation of Kurdish people. Why aren’t you returning and laying down your weapons?’” he said.
Jamal Ja’fari, a Turkmen resident of Kirkuk, believes that Turkey’s democratic initiative will also positively affect the Turkmens’ situation in the city. “Peace in Turkey means peace here,” Ja’fari said.

Turkey has threatened in the past to wage war on the Iraqi Kurds if they forcefully attempt to control Kirkuk and damage the interests of the Turkmens, who share close ethnic ties with Turkey. Kurds claim the control of the city, saying Kirkuk historically belongs to the Kurdish region. Arabs and Turkmens, however, dispute the Kurdish claims.
Kurdish resident Silvan Abdullah said he believed the initiative will have repercussions not only in Turkey but all over the world. “It may also benefit our neighbors and the peace within Kirkuk. In fact, we do not have any problems with Turkmens living here,” Abdullah said.

17 November 2009, Tuesday


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