Turkey again warns US over northern Iraq city

Wext: Monday, 27.September. @ 00:00:00 CEST


ANKARA, Sept 25 ( AFP ) - 11h09 - Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Saturday he had conveyed Turkey's concerns over the future of the ethnically volatile Iraqi city of Kirkuk to US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Anatolia news agency reported.

Ankara is worried that the Iraqi Kurds, a staunch US ally in Iraq, are plotting to take control of the oil-rich northern city, which also has a large population of Turkmen, an ethnic minority of Turkish descent.

"Everybody should refrain from any kind of provocative action. I told him (Powell) that Kirkuk is very important in this process and that everybody should be very cautious on that," Gul told Turkish reporters in New York after talks with Powell in the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Turkey has repeatedly warned against attempts to upset the demography of Kirkuk, which the Iraqi Kurds say was overwhelmingly Kurdish in the 1950s before the government in Baghdad started a deliberate campaign of "Arabization."

Thousands of Arabs were encouraged during Saddam Hussein's 24-year rule to settle in Kirkuk and the Kurds are now trying to chase them out.

Ankara fears that Kurdish control of the area's oil resources could further strengthen the Iraqi Kurds whom it suspects of plotting to break away from the central control of Baghdad.

Such a prospect, Ankara worries, could fan separatist sentiment among its own restive Kurds in adjoining southeast Turkey.

"It is primarily in our interest that Iraq is stabilized as soon as possible," Gul said, according to Anatolia.

"The Americans will one day go, but we will continue to live in this region. That's why an Iraq which has preserved its territorial and political unity and which has begun to use its resources in peace for the benefit of its people is very much in our interest," the minister added.

Earlier this month, Turkey threatened to cease all cooperation with the US over Iraq if it continued to shell the mainly Turkmen Iraqi town of Tall Afar.

Things were quickly smoothed over, however, and Gul later said that Ankara and Washington would act together to provide assistance to the town's population.

Source: AFP

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