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Talks Seek End to Turkmen Boycott in Kirkuk
Next Round on Wednesday as Kurds Study Turkmen Bloc's Demands
02/25/2008 6:22 PM ET
Blue text notes areas of Turkmen settlement in northern Iraq.
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Blue text notes areas of Turkmen settlement in northern Iraq.

Rival ethnic Turkmen and Kurdish factions met in Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk Monday to discuss conditions that might lead to the end of the Turkmen parties' boycott of the Kirkuk provincial government.

A member of the Turkmen bloc in the provincial council told Aswat al-Iraq that his Kurdish counterparts had asked for time to respond to the demands put forward by the Turkmen group as conditions of ending the boycott, including employment of Turkmen in higher positions in the provincial administration and the official use of the Turkmens' language.

Ali Mahdi told Aswat al-Iraq today that "The Turkish Group held a meeting today with the Kirkuk Fraternal List," the Kurdish coalition that controls the provincial administration, adding that the two parties discussed "the demands that we are putting forward but there has been no response yet."

He added that the Kurdish bloc "asked to be given an opportunity to discuss the demands," saying that a second meeting will take place between the two sides on Sunday to reach a final settlement to these demands."

Turkmen in Kirkuk's provincial council suspended their membership in the body in 2005, demanding a reapportionment of power between the Turkmen, Arabs, and Kurds of the province, and the recognition of Turkmen, closely related to Turkish, as an official language, along with the end to what they saw as discriminatory policies against the Turkmen of the area aimed at consolidating Kurdish control.

Arab Kirkuki leaders pursued a similar boycott but ended their suspension last year, after an agreement with the Kurdish list that gave them the position of deputy governor of the province, along with several other positions in the provincial administration, and the distribution of administrative positions at 32% each between the three principal ethnic groups. Arab leaders also sought the release of detainees from the prisons of the Kurdistan Regional Government who had not been convicted of an offense.

Kurdish and Turkmen leaders in the province told Aswat al-Iraq earlier that the two groups would meet in order to seek an end to the Turkmen boycott. The meeting was due to be held last Wednesday but was delayed, ostensibly for administrative reasons.

The Kirkuk Fraternal List, a coalition of the PUK and DKP, the two largest Kurdish parties in Iraq, holds 26 of 41 seats in the Kirkuk provincial council, while the Iraq Turkmen Front holds eight seats, the Islamic Turkmen Party holds one seat, and Arab Kirkukis hold six.

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