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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs