Monday, May 15, 2006

ICG Urges US to Take Active Role in Kirkuk Issues

Posted GMT 5-11-2006 15:17:17

Ankara -- A leading Brussels-based think tank urged the U.S. yesterday to immediately take active measures to prevent the city of Kirkuk, Iraq from potentially escalating into ethnic clashes, reported news channel NTV.
Joost Hiltermann, the Middle East project director from the International Crisis Group (ICG), said in an address at the Middle East Institute in Washington that Iraqi Kurds are determined to include the oil-rich city under the authority of the Kurdish regional government. He added that these efforts will receive a harsh response from both Arabs and Turkmens.
"The U.S. should stop leaving this issue to Iraqis. This is a mistaken policy," stressed Hiltermann. Recalling next year's planned referendum on the future status of Kirkuk, and mentioning his fears of a possible increase in tension in the near future as Kurdish groups change the demography of the city, Hiltermann suggested that Washington should become actively involved with the issue rather than leaving it for the Iraqis to deal with. The ICG expert also criticized the U.S. for sending mainly Kurdish security officials to Turkmen-dominated cities like Tal Afar.
During his speech, Hiltermann also said that the strong Turkish military and the Turkish government have differing views about relations with Iraqi Kurds. He said that the military looks upon the Iraqi Kurdish political groups more harshly than ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, which has been in favor of developing economic links and investments in northern Iraq.