Turkey Stakes Claims in Post-Saddam Iraq

(Daily Star - Lebanon) Mohammad Noureddine - Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu caused much alarm in the Arab world when he characterized the Mosul and Kirkuk districts of Iraq as parts of Turkey that were forcibly taken away from it after World War I, and northern Iraq in its entirety as a "trust" under Turkey's "safekeeping." The former velayet of Mosul was in Ottoman hands at the end of World War I, yet the British, coveting the province's oil resources, proceeded to occupy it in 1918. Turkey refused to accept the loss of any of the territory and in 1920, the Turkish Parliament included the Mosul-Kirkuk area within the country's borders. During the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the late President Turgut Ozal was reported to have drawn up a map envisaging an Iraq divided into three parts - Arab, Turkmen and Kurdish - bound together as a federation. In recent years, a new component of Turkish policy has emerged: securing autonomy for the Turkmen minority - estimated to number between 500,000 and 1.5 million - in Kirkuk and the surrounding area, a region rich in oil. With no oil resources of its own, Turkey would not be averse to gaining some in Iraq if circumstances were to permit. Such a historic shift in Turkish policy would also automatically open up the hornet's nest of territorial disputes between Turkey and its other neighbors - including Syria (over Alexandretta), Armenia, and Greece.

2002-09-05 00:00:00

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