News

Iraqi Kurdish Region President, Turkish Officials Meet, Discuss Syria

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani shake hands before their meeting in Istanbul, April 19, 2012.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani shake hands before their meeting in Istanbul, April 19, 2012.
Dorian Jones

The head of the Iraqi Kurdish region, Masoud Barzani, is visiting Turkey in a deepening of relations built on trade and growing shared regional interests. But the unrest in Syria poses both a challenge and opportunity for the two parties.

The Iraqi Kurdistan regional President Masoud Barzani started his two-day visit Thursday by meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. One of the key topics of talks is reported to be the crisis in neighboring Syria.

Sinan Ulgen is a former senior Turkish diplomat who now heads the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies. He said Ankara has deep concern about the role Kurds will play if the Syrian regime falls to government opponents.

"In a post-Assad era, if the Syrian Kurds, possibly with the support of the Iraqi Kurdish leadership, want to obtain a degree of autonomy - if not to say independence, that can fuel secessionist tendency of other Kurds in the region," Ulgen said. "That is certainly a risk. But Barzani, before coming to Turkey, he also made a number of statements to trying to assuage those fears."

People stand in front of a Kurdish flag during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and a celebration of Nowruz held by Qamishli's Kurdish community, March 21, 2012.
People stand in front of a Kurdish flag during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and a celebration of Nowruz held by Qamishli's Kurdish community, March 21, 2012.

International relations expert Soli Ozel of the Turkish newspaper Haberturk said with Syrian Kurds making up a large part of the rebel group PKK, the Syrian crisis poses a dilemma to Ankara. The largest Kurdish population lives in Turkey and for more than three decades the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state for greater rights.

"You see Turkey, on one hand, does not want Damascus's grip to weaken in order to keep the Kurds in place. On the other hand, it wants Assad regime to go.  It is very difficult act," said Ozel.

Still, the Turkish government is rolling out the red carpet for the Iraqi Kurdish leader.  With a meeting scheduled Friday with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, the Barzani visit is being described in the Turkish media as akin to an official state visit by a leader of a country.

In the past few years, relations have dramatically improved between the Turkish government and the Iraqi Kurdish leader.

Cengiz Aktar, professor of International relations at Istanbul's Bahcesehir University, said the warm reception is an indication of the importance to Ankara of Barzani.

"Some time ago he was considered as a local bandit. Now he is considered as a statesman," said Aktar. "The main tie is economic, and Turkish industrialists and tradesmen are very busy and very active. It's very important, it's very useful, it's very healthy and this is how relations are developing. And there is so much trust on especially on Masoud Barzani. The Turkish government is trying to subcontract the solution of its own Kurdish problem to him."

Barzani is expected to discuss steps to end the PKK insurgency against Turkey. He has resisted calls by Ankara to move against PKK bases in northern Iraq. The Iraqi Kurdish leader is reported to be planning to call for a PKK cease-fire in the coming weeks.

But it is a reciprocal relationship.

Turkish authorities are offering strong support to Barzani in his political struggle with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over the distribution of power and control of resources.  Former Turkish envoy Ulgen said common interests are forging a strong relationship.

"This is a grand equation. And the more Turkey and Iraq Kurdish leadership acquire common points of convergence, the more confidence will emerge on the two sides. We have already seen signs of that: the fact that they now see eye-to-eye on the future of Iraq and trying to push back against Maliki," said Ulgen. "It is also helping to discuss more constructively the role Syrian Kurds can play in the future of Syria."

Several Syrian Kurdish opposition groups are using the Iraqi Kurdish region as a place to meet. Analysts say Ankara may well be looking to Barzani as a moderating force on their demands and to persuade them to unit behind the main opposition Syrian National Council.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs