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 In light of Massoud Barzani's visit to Turkey

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In light of Massoud Barzani's visit to Turkey  14.11.2011  
By Rudaw

November 14, 2011

ERBIL-Hewlêr, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — The recent visit of Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani to Turkey and talks with top officials of that country has been the subject of much speculation and coverage by the Turkish media.

Barzani’s visit came in the wake of a series of bloody attacks by the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) that killed 24 Turkish soldiers.

Infuriated by the PKK attack, Turkey launched intensive air and ground raids on PKK positions in the mountains between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey.

Many in Turkey wondered if Barzani and Turkey had             

Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani (left) with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara. Photo: Reuters
reached any deal to confront the PKK. In fact some Turkish media outlets reported as Barzani’s plane landed in Istanbul that “Barzani has come to coordinate attacks on the PKK.”

One day after the end of Barzani’s visit, Turkish journalist Murat Yetkin wrote in daily Hurriyet that Barzani’s visit was at the request of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who wanted to meet the Kurdish leader urgently.

Although Erdogan was in Europe when Barzani arrived in Turkey, the Kurdish president was scheduled to meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Yetkin wrote that Turkish officials wanted to encourage Barzani to support Turkey’s fight against the PKK.

“But Barzani’s statements disappointed many of Turkish politicians and the media,” wrote Yetkin.

In Turkey, Barzani said on more than one occasion that “war does not resolve the problems.”

This was construed as a rejection of Turkish demands for Barzani’s support in battling the PKK.

Meeting with a number of Turkish journalists in Istanbul, Barzani said, “I know your army is strong,” he said, in reference to the Turkish military, “but who are you fighting? This isn’t a war on battlefields.”

Barzani referred to his time as a Peshmarga fighting Saddam Hussein’s regime. He said despite the superiority of the Iraqi army, they could not defeat Kurdish fighters who often carried and fought with light weapons in the mountains.

“So, in Barzani’s view, Turkey’s war against the PKK will neither be beneficial nor will it resolve any problem,” wrote Yetkin.

Shortly before his meeting with Erdogan on Nov. 4, Barzani said he strongly opposed war and urged the PKK to understand that “war does not serve the Kurdish cause in Turkey.”

At the same time, Barzani said to a number of Kurdish MPs, that he was in Istanbul to encourage peace.

“I told them openly and honestly that I am against war because it cannot serve the cause of Kurdistan people or Turkish interests. My message is very clear which is we should believe in a peaceful solution and not think of any other alternative,” Barzani told Turkish journalists.

He urged both the Kurds and Turkish government to resume talks, saying, “It doesn’t matter if the process of negotiation gets lengthy, the important thing is this is the best course of action to take.”

With Barzani in Turkey, some Turkish media outlets reported that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has agreed to set up checkpoints in its territory to confront the PKK guerrillas.

“If the problem is going to be resolved by setting up a few checkpoints in the area, then why doesn’t Turkey set up those checkpoints on its side of the border? We need to be realistic because neither through military methods nor setting up some checkpoints this problem is going to be resolved,” Barzani said.

Barzani also criticized the Turkish authorities for arresting large numbers of Kurdish politicians and activists on the ground of alleged connection with the PKK.

“If people are arrested because of political reasons, then this won’t serve the process of democracy,” asserted Barzani.

One day after his meeting with Barzani, PM Erdogan delivered a speech in Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque on the occasion of the Muslim holy Eid al-Adha, in which he strongly attacked the PKK. He said Turkish security forces will continue fighting the PKK.

Erdogan also maintained that, “the solution of the Kurdish issue has to come from within the Parliament.”

“If what they are doing is politics, then Parliament is the place for politics. Everybody can resolve their problems inside Parliament. If there is a right to be taken, then it should be done inside Parliament,” Turkish prime minister said.

Erdogan’s remarks in Blue Mosque were markedly different from earlier remarks by his foreign minister who had said the PKK needs to be finished off through military means.

Hurriyet reported that Turkish officials had asked Barzani to ensure Peshmarga forces keep checkpoints that separate the KRG-controlled areas from the PKK zone. They also requested that the Kurdish Peshmarga would pass on intelligence to the Turks on PKK movements.

The Turks also hoped the Kurdish government would place strict monitoring in airports, especially Erbil International Airport, as they suspect some of PKK’s funds from Europe pass through the Erbil airport.

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