Arab and Turkoman politicians in Iraq say the deployment of Kurdish Peshmerga forces to the disputed Kirkuk region is aggravating ethnic tensions in the oil-rich province, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.
Parliament deputy Arshad al-Salehi, an ethnic Turkoman, told RFI on March 17 that the presence of some 5,000 Peshmerga stationed in the multiethnic Kirkuk city has created a volatile situation.
Al-Salehi said that "above all, the Americans and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government bear responsibility for the serious consequences of this development [involving the Peshmerga]."
The militia forces were brought to Kirkuk several weeks ago, but they may not be in the region much longer.
Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi announced at a press conference on March 16 that the Peshmerga will pull out within two weeks.
Parliament member Hamid al-Mutlaq, an Arab from the Al-Iraqiyah bloc, told RFI that "the Peshmerga forces should pull out sooner rather than later, as their deployment is illegal."
Al-Mutlaq said that "Kirkuk remains the responsibility of the central government in terms of security, and the deployment of the Peshmerga forces in defiance of Baghdad has created unwarranted tension between the communities."
Kurdish parliament member Muhsin al-Sadun told RFI that "the Peshmerga forces were deployed as a precaution to thwart terror threats and protect the people of Kirkuk, irrespective of ethnic affiliations."
He said the Peshmerga forces have been deployed "outside the city of Kirkuk to carry out a specific security mission, and will withdraw once the mission is accomplished."
Al-Saleh suggested that an interim solution to the issue of who should rule Kirkuk "would be a power-sharing arrangement between the three main [ethnic] communities in Kirkuk: Arabs, Turkomans, and Kurds, on an equal footing ... until a review of voter rolls is completed in preparation for free and fair elections."
Al-Sadun reiterated that the only solution to the Kurdish problem is to adhere to the Iraqi Constitution, especially Article 140, which outlines a three-step process: reversal of the Saddam Hussein-era Arabization; an official census be taken; and finally a referendum to decide whether the province will become part of the Kurdish autonomous region.