Reiterating his strong support for the democratization initiative launched by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government last summer, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani has encouraged Kurdish people of Turkey for supporting the initiative which seeks to settle Turkey’s decades-long Kurdish problem by expanding the democratic rights of its Kurdish citizens.
Barzani, the head of the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, held talks in Washington earlier this week. He held talks with both US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the visit which came ahead of key parliamentary elections to be held in Iraq in March.
His remarks on Turkey’s Kurdish issue came on Wednesday as he delivered a speech at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings Institute in Washington.
There is need to focus on the democratization policy assumed and efforts exerted by Turkey at the moment in order to resolve the Kurdish issue, Barzani firstly noted, when asked whether the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which also has bases in northern Iraq, continues its terrorist activities against Turkey and whether Turkey eventually continues its military operations against the PKK.
Barzani stated Iraqi Kurds’ strong support for the Turkish government’s efforts for resolving of the issue through peaceful means, adding: “We have all been convinced that military means or political pressures never bring solution, but if this option is preferred we will not be a part of it.”
The democratization process helps improvement of bilateral relations between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan region as well, Barzani noted, arguing that Turkey no longer perceived the regional administration in northern Iraq as a threat against itself.
“We don’t find the Constitutional Court’s ruling appropriate,” Barzani was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency, referring to a December ruling by Turkey’s Constitutional court for shutting down the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) on charges of ethnic separatism.
“We don’t believe that this [ruling] will serve for the peace process which has been launched. It is a decision against democracy,” Barzani went on saying. “My advice to my Kurdish siblings in Turkey is to assume a positive manner and make cooperation with the Turkish government so that, by this means, let’s not miss this opportunity, let’s follow up the peaceful process,” he, however, added.
Relations between Iraqi Kurds and Turkey deteriorated sharply following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Turkey accused the Kurdish administration of harboring the PKK, which launched attacks on Turkish targets from its bases in northern Iraq, and threatened to declare war if the Kurds attempted to seize control of the disputed city of Kirkuk -- home to a sizable Turkmen population.
But tension is now being replaced by a dramatic rapprochement, and the government’s Kurdish initiative is further strengthening the positive trend in ties. In a speech delivered to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament in November, Barzani had welcomed the progress made in Turkey’s relations with the Kurdish administration and described Turkey’s initiative to solve its decades-long Kurdish issue as “Prime Minister Erdoğan’s brave Kurdish peace initiative.” Barzani further added that the Kurdish authorities will support Turkey in its efforts to end the conflict with the PKK.