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 Messages from Davutoglu’s Visit to Erbil

 Opinion — Analysis  
  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


Messages from Davutoglu’s Visit to Erbil  6.8.2012 
By Hiwa Osman

Hiwa Osman, IWPR Iraq’s country director, previously served as Iraqi president Jalal Talabani’s media adviser.  Read more by the Author
August 6, 2012

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s visit to Erbil and Kirkuk sent many messages to the Kurds and Baghdad; the main one being Turkey is an important, strong and stable player in the region.

But the visit also sent messages home to Turkey. The headline of the daily Hurriyet on August 2 was: “Barzani vows to fight common threats.” The newspaper said Davutoglu conveyed Turkey’s uneasiness over the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria.

On the same day, the newspaper Turkiye quoted Davutoglu as saying of a three-hour-long meeting in Erbil: “Barzani got the message,” and that developments in Syria threatened stability in the region.

As for the messages across the border, the Kurds received the visit with a great deal of importance. It was seen as a recognition of the important role Erbil plays today, both inside and outside Iraq’s borders.

The visit recognized that Erbil holds some cards in the region. The foreign minister’s meeting with the Syrian Kurdish opposition here reiterated that.

The visit recognized the status of the Kurdistan Region. It gave the indication that Erbil is more important than Baghdad for Turkey.

The other message that people here received was that the road to Kirkuk now goes through Erbil and that Turkey stands at an equal distance from all sides of the city.

In other words, Davutoglu showed no preferential treatment for the Turkmen, despite his emotional speech as a Turkmen from Konya at the Turkmen Front headquarters. His pledge of support for Kirkuk was an important signal of future plans for the city.

All these messages are with a view to creating a stable, friendly and secure neighborhood for Turkey. Davutoglu’s zero-problem policy may succeed on almost all the Kurdish borders, be they Syria, Iraq or Iran.

But this zero-problem policy stops at the Turkish border because the question remains whether Turkey is fit to play this role and send these messages externally, while suffering from the same problems internally.

Can Turkey imagine the Iraqi foreign minister, a Kurd from Mosul, visiting Diyarbakir after obtaining a visa and telling a Kurdish gathering there what Davutoglu told the Turkmen in Kirkuk. Would Turkey be able to tolerate that?

It is this inability to answer such a question that makes it difficult for Turkey to play the role of older brother in the region despite its many strengths. Turkey needs to look inward and work on a permanent settlement of its own Kurdish issue.

Only then can Turkey be an important, strong and stable player in the region that can call the shots and does not need to speak with one language at home and another abroad.

Hiwa Osman is IWPR’s country director in Iraq, previously served as Iraqi president Jalal Talabani’s media adviser, a regular contributing writer and columnist for Osman's website is

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  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


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