Irbil- Turkey became strongly involved on Tuesday in the crisis that erupted last week after a decision to fly the Kurdish flag above public buildings and institutions in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked the Kurds to “go back from this mistake” and “immediately bring the flag down,” warning that relations with Turkey could be hurt if they don’t act.
Speaking from the Black Sea province of Zonguldak, Erdogan said: “We don’t agree with the claim Kirkuk is for the Kurds at all. Kirkuk is for the Turkmen, Arabs and Kurds, if they are there.”
According to Reuters, Erdogan said: “Do not enter into a claim it’s yours or the price will be heavy. You will harm dialogue with Turkey.”
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by President Masoud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), headed by Jalal Talabani, met on Sunday in Irbil and said Kurdistan has a right to hoist its flag in Kirkuk.
In another escalatory move taken on Tuesday, Kirkuk’s Provincial Council voted in favor of a region-wide referendum to determine the future governance of the province.
Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution stipulates holding a referendum in Kirkuk to decide on the disputed area.
The Provincial Council warned it would take legal measures if the Iraqi government fails to hold the referendum on whether Kirkuk would join Kurdistan’s government or remain linked to Baghdad.
Also in its meeting that was boycotted by some Turkmen and Arab members, the council rejected the decision of the Iraqi Parliament regarding the removal of the Kurdistan flag from state buildings in the province.
The majority of Kurds in the council, supported by some Arab and Turkmen members, want to annex the province to the District of Kurdistan.