Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - It was supposed to be a visit to promote "peace and harmony", when Massoud al Barzani, head of the government of Kurdistan, visited the contested province of Kirkuk yesterday. The Kurdish prime minister first met with the city council and mayor of Kirkuk, and then met with the political leaders and Muslim religious authorities, together with all of the Christian clergy, led by Chaldean archbishop Louis Sako. At the end of the talks, he met with numerous Kurdish, Arab, and Turkmen dignitaries, a sign of the intention of all the ethnicities and religious faiths to participate in a common effort for true peace. But some disappointment remains nonetheless over the lack of participation on the part of some of the Arab tribes and Turkmen parties, which boycotted the event.
Despite the few defections, Archbishop Sako is careful to emphasize "the extreme importance" of yesterday's summit, during which "al Barzani wished to issue an open message for dialogue, promoting fraternity and looking to the good of the population".
In the name of the united local community, the archbishop of Kirkuk greeted the head of Kurdistan's government, emphasizing that the visit and message of peace "serve to reassure the people" that in recent weeks have seen a rise in episodes of violence. "The meeting", Archbishop Sako stresses to AsiaNews, "helps to eliminate barriers, and is the point of departure for a search for a common solution". The prelate also expresses his hope that the call to peace "may not remain mere empty talk", but that through the work of all, it may become a concrete reality: "The work of all is needed, beginning with the politicians called to put it into practice through daily effort", Archbishop Sako adds. He recalls that the people are not divided, but desire without exception "peace and coexistence", and this is the mission that the leaders must be able to realize. The ruling majority must "listen to the opinion of all", and take on an attitude that "promotes shared responsibility. The country has been ruined, and it is up to all of us to rebuild it: through a united effort, we can do it", Archbishop Sako concludes.
The archbishop's words were welcomed by Massoud al Barzani, who at the end of his visit to the city promised to "do my best" to bring Kirkuk back to life, and emphasized that "if errors have been committed in the past", there will be efforts in the future to "correct these through the work of all".
The population responded favorably to the visit of the Kurdish leader, whose message contributed to easing the tension that had been created in recent weeks following terrorist attacks and the request of the governing majority to annex Kirkuk to Kurdistan.
The northern city, at the center of an area extremely rich in petroleum, is claimed by Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen, and is among the reasons why the provincial elections scheduled for October have been delayed. A proposal by the UN, presented in parliament on Wednesday, suggested moving the vote in the contested province to next year, in order to allow the elections in the rest of the country to come to a common solution for Kirkuk. But the parliamentarians rejected it. (DS)