Yesterday [August 2], a Turkish foreign minister visited the Iraqi city of Kirkuk for the first time in 75 years. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was in Erbil on Wednesday [August 1], and went on to Kirkuk. But the visited turned into a major crisis that spawned harsh reactions from the Iraqi government.
The last such visit to Kirkuk was in 1937 by Foreign Minister Tevfik Rustu Aras. Under strict security, Davutoglu first visited the governor of Kirkuk, Necmettin Kareem. After the meeting Davutoglu greeted journalists in Turkish, Kurdish and Arabic. Davutoglu expressed his appreciation for the hospitality shown by Governor Kareem and said, “For us, the unity of Kirkuk is the same as unity of Iraq. On behalf of your brothers in Turkey, I say all Iraqis — no matter of what sectarian origin — are our brothers, our relatives.”
Met SNC officials
Davutoglu visited Hassan Turan, the president of the Kirkuk Provincial Assembly, and then met with Ersat Salihi, the leader of the Turkmen Front. The leaders of the Syrian National Council and Syrian Kurdish Council also participated in the meeting that discussed the latest developments in Syria. Davutoglu greeted the participants saying “Ewarbash,” which means “Good evening” in Kurdish.
Visit causes crisis
Davutoglu’s Kirkuk contacts provoked harsh reactions from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, which has been having problems with Turkey for some time. Maliki’s media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi, said Davutoglu violated diplomatic rules and the responsibility for the visit would be with Turkey and the Kurdistan administration. Moussawi said the visit could result in dangerous consequences and warned that Iraq will not remain quiet about such a violation. Calling the visit an “infiltration,” Moussawi went on to say, “Does such a provocative action by Turkey set a good example? We are not against visits to Northern Iraq as long as they are done with the knowledge of the government. We don’t recognize this visit because it took place in violation of international law.”
Davutoglu can be detained
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that it “had no information and had not approved this non-diplomatic and non-official visit.” According to Rudaw News Agency, parliamentarian Abdulhadi el Hassan from Maliki’s party said: “Turkey is blatantly interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs. The Turkish embassy should be closed down. We have the right to detain Davutoglu.”