ISTANBUL: Turkey on Wednesday voiced its opposition to a vote in the disputed oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk to fly the Kurdish flag over government buildings, warning against “unilateral steps”.
Provincial councillors in Kirkuk province voted Tuesday to fly the Kurdish regional flag, a move likely to escalate tensions between Baghdad and Ankara.
Iraqi Kurds are close to Ankara, but Turkey said it opposed flying the flag because it does not want any change in Kirkuk, which is also home to Turkmens.
Kirkuk is at the centre of a long-running dispute over northern territory that Kurdish authorities want to incorporate into their autonomous region, a move the federal government in Baghdad opposes.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said it was “not the right thing to do.”
“It is a situation that goes against the Iraqi constitution,” Yildirim told the private NTV television.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the state-run TRT television that it would “not be correct to change that region’s ethnic composition,” adding that “unilateral steps” would bring no benefit.
“We are supporting Iraq’s and Syria’s territorial integrity.”
The United Nations has also warned that the decision to fly the Kurdish flag over the citadel in Kirkuk could inflame tensions.
Kirkuk is home to various religious and ethnic communities, some of which — notably Arabs and Turkmen — do not want to see the province under permanent Kurdish control.