Turkish President Abdullah Gul denied the earlier media reports that he used the term "Kurdistan regional government" while describing the semi-autonomous administration in northern Iraq. (UPDATED)
"In fact, I did not use that term (Kurdistan) but as I said this is a reality. The country who attaches the biggest importance to Iraq's unity and integrity is Turkey. There is a regional Kurdish administration in the north of Iraq according to the Iraqi constitution. This is what I had said. I held a meeting with (the regional administration's) prime minister," Gul told reporters at a press conference in Ankara on Tuesday, the state-run Anatolian Agency reported. Gul returned to Ankara late on Tuesday after his two-day visit to Baghdad.
Turkish newspapers reported on Tuesday that Gul became the first Turkish official to define the northern Iraqi administration as "Kurdistan" when he said the “Kurdistan regional administration" in Iraq is the main actor in efforts to end the terror activities against Turkish territory.
Turkey does not recognize the semi-autonomous administration in northern Iraq with its official name due to concerns that this will eventually lead to the establishment of an independent Kurdish state involving Turkish territory.
GUL'S REPORTED REMARKS
During his trip to northern Iraq on Monday, Gul referred to the administration as the “Kurdistan regional government,” then defended his use of the word “Kurdistan” by saying that it is the region’s official name according to the Iraqi constitution, the reports suggested.
"What should I say? We do not refuse to say Macedonia because Greece rejects to do so. This is written in the (Iraqi) constitution. This is a fact that those in northern Iraq should calculate the possible outcome of losing Turkey," Gul told reporters while traveling to Baghdad on Monday, Radikal daily reported Tuesday.
Gul began a landmark visit to neighboring Iraq on Monday, becoming the first Turkish head of state to visit Iraq in 33 years, at a time of changing relations between Turkey and northern Iraq amid calls for increased efforts to eradicate the presence of the terror organization PKK.
Kurdish groups based in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Europe are expected to call on the PKK to disarm during a conference to be held in late April or May in the northern Iraq city of Arbil.
The conference will be organized by the regional administration in northern Iraq.
In remarks made last week, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said the conference would aim to end the armed struggle. The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) will be invited to participate.
The PKK, considered a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, including the EU and the United States, remains the biggest obstacle to closer ties between the two neighboring countries.
Turkey is pressing Iraq and the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration in the north of the country to keep the PKK from launching cross-border attacks on Turkish territory from their bases in Iraq