Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi yesterday slammed Kurds who hoisted the Kurdish flag over government buildings in the disputed city of Kirkuk, threatening to hold them to account for their actions and saying that the move aimed to create “sedition” in the divided city.
Addressing governing councils from Iraqi provinces yesterday, where the Kirkuk governor was not in attendance, Al-Abadi denounced the decision to raise the Kurdish flag over the city, declaring that:
Those people who created this sedition will shoulder the responsibility [for their actions]. Trust me, those who raised it did not do it for the sake of Kurds, but for political reasons.
Al-Abadi insisted that it was a “mistake” for Kurdish political groups to inflame the sensitive topic, arguing that “Kirkuk is part of the great Iraq” and that the city’s “identity” is just Iraqi, the Iraqi Kurdish Rudaw website reported.
“The insistence on flying the Kurdistan flag over a governmental building is also a mistake because these institutions are not associated with the Provincial Council, but the city of Kirkuk,” the Iraqi premier said, indicating that the people of Kirkuk represented a diverse array of opinions, not all of them supportive of the idea that the city should be part of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
“If you have a national feeling and believe this flag represents you, I respect that,” Al-Abadi said, adding that if that was the case then Kurds “could simply hoist it on your shops or houses or the institution you have, but not [on the] property of the state and the federal government [which represents] Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and other minorities.”
Al-Abadi cited the opposition of Arabs and Turkmens native to Kirkuk who are against the decision made by the Kirkuk Provincial Council after the groups boycotted the voting session.Despite allegations that his government rules Iraq in a sectarian manner that favours the Shia, the Iraqi prime minister criticised the Kurds of engaging in divisive ethnic politics:
The opinions of the Turkmens and Arabs were not taken into account…This country cannot be run with the logic of 50 plus one [per cent]. If you are the majority, you should not ignore the rights of the minorities. Rather, some subjects require [people] to come to an understanding.
The local government in Kirkuk raised the Kurdistan flag alongside the Iraqi one over the Kirkuk governorate building last month after a vote by the provincial council led by veteran Kurdish leader of the Patriotic Union for Kurdistan (PUK) party, Jalal Talabani. The vote was boycotted by Arab and Turkmen delegates, who denounced the vote as politicised and “unconstitutional”.The controversy also has stirred up anger in neighbouring Turkey which expressed its strong opposition to the move.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even said that the KRG was risking its good relations with Ankara if it continued to fly the KRG’s flag over Kirkuk, a city with a large Turkmen population.