Postponement of Kirkuk Referendum?

The USG Open Source Center reports on the possible postponement of the referendum on the future of oil-rich Kirkuk province, which the Kurds want to annex to Kurdistan.

Iraq: Kurdish Leaders Raise Possibility of Delay on Kirkuk Referendum
Iraq — OSC Report
Monday, September 17,

In the wake of the Kurdistan Parliament vote on 13 June reaffirming the 31 December deadline for the implementation of Article 140, some Kurdish officials, including Mas’ud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region and head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), have suggested that it might be possible to delay holding the Kirkuk referendum beyond the deadline. At the same time, other Kurdish officials are insisting that the referendum cannot be postponed. Meanwhile, Kurdish officials are pushing ahead with the implementation of other aspects of Article 140.

In spite of the 13 June vote, a number of Kurdish officials have suggested that delay on the referendum may be acceptable.

On 19 June, Barzani, who has taken a hardline position on Article 140 in the past, told Peshmerga forces: “We oppose any postponement of Article 140 through a political decision. However, if the postponement is for a short time, and due to technical and not political reasons, the Kurdistan Parliament can make a decision on that. We will adhere to any decision make by the Kurdistan Parliament” (Kurdistan Satellite TV).
Fu’ad Ma’sum, head of the Kurdish bloc in the Baghdad parliament, stated: “We have no problem with delaying the referendum on the fate of Kirkuk for two or three months, maybe more . . . The important thing is that we begin effective steps in normalizing the situation in Kirkuk” (www.aswataliraq.info, 10 September).
The Kurdish financial official for the High Commission for Implementing Article 140 and Iraqi Environment Minister Narmin Uthman offered her view of a possible delay in the referendum: “It might be delayed two or three months from its scheduled time, but this does not mean postponement” (Aso, 10 September).

Other highly placed Kurdish officials have shown no softening on the position and insisted on full implementation by the end of the year. Kamal Kirkuki, Deputy Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament (www.peyamner.com)

In an interview with Al-Jazirah, Kamal Kirkuki, deputy speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament, said: “We insist on the implementation of this article without any amendment, postponement, or action that may undermine it. On 13 June 2007, the Kurdistan Parliament adopted a unanimous decision against postponement, change, or amendment of the article” (Al-Jazirah Satellite TV, 28 August).
Speaking to PUK members in Kirkuk, Mala Bakhtiyar, head of the political bureau for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), said: “There are many Iraqi sides who do not believe in the implementation of (Article 140), and we, as the Kurdistani side, will not compromise on this issue” (Kurdistani Nuwe, 29 August).
According to an English-language weekly published in Iraqi Kurdistan, Qadir Aziz maintained that “the primary condition for the Kurds to remain in the Al-Maliki government” is the implementation of Article 140 (The Kurdish Globe, 28 August). Moving Ahead on Implementation of Article 140

(1)

At the same time, media are reporting that Kurdish officials are taking significant steps to implement other aspects of Article 140.

Kosrat Rasul Ali, vice president of the Kurdistan Region, along with a joint delegation of highly placed PUK and KDP officials, visited Khanaqin in Diyala Province in order to discuss speeding up implementation of Article 140 (Al-Ittihad, 13 September).
Narmin Uthman, on 9 September, reportedly signed $6 million in compensation checks payable to Arab settlers who had agreed to leave the city and return to their places of origin (Aso, 10 September).
Additionally, the Kurdistan Region’s Ministry for Extra-Regional Affairs, designed to coordinate efforts to annex the Kurdish areas into the region, issued an order to form councils in all the areas in question in order to ascertain what needs to be done to further the implementation of Article 140 (www.krg.org, 11 September).

(1) Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution stipulates that by 31 December 2007, the city of Kirkuk, along with the other disputed Kurdish areas, will be “normalized” by moving settler Arabs out of the areas and moving formerly displaced Kurdish families in. A census will then be taken in all the disputed areas, followed by a referendum to determine whether the areas will be incorporated into the Kurdistan Region.

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