Speaking in Erbil, the KRG’s administrative capital, Barzani stressed that Kirkuk was “home to more than just Kurds”.
“Kirkuk is not only home to Kurdish people,” he said. “It’s also home to Arabs and Turkmen. No single party has the sole right to decide the city’s future.”
In regard to the ongoing row over the recent appearance of Kurdish regional flags in Kirkuk, Barzani cited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent remarks on the issue.
"Like President Erdogan, we believe Kirkuk isn’t an exclusively Kurdish city,” Barzani asserted. “It is also home to Arabs, Turkmen and other elements.”
He added: “Kirkuk will remain the property of all the ethnicities that live there now and have always lived there.”
On Tuesday, President Erdogan rejected the notion that Kirkuk was an exclusively Kurdish city, saying: "Kirkuk belongs to Turkmen, Arabs and Kurds, and all others who live there."
According to Barzani, the recent flag row was being exaggerated by certain parties for political reasons.
"The flag issue is being exaggerated. When Daesh captured Mosul in 2014, [Kurdish] Peshmerga forces defended the city under the Kurdish regional flag,” he said.
Last week, 26 Kurdish members of Kirkuk’s provincial council voted in favor of raising the Kurdish regional flag -- alongside Iraq’s national flag -- outside the city’s public buildings and institutions.
On Saturday, however, the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad rejected the move, saying only Iraq’s national flag should fly over the city’s public insitutions.
Kirkuk Governor Najmiddin Karim, for his part, has refused to apply parliament’s directive to remove the flags.
During the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Kurdish Peshmerga forces seized Kirkuk, prompting an influx of Kurds into the ethnically diverse city.
While Baghdad says Kirkuk is administratively dependent on Iraq’s central government, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan -- an influential political party in the region -- wants to see the city incorporated into the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
Kirkuk’s population is comprised mainly of Arab, Turkmen and Kurdish inhabitants.