Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu meets Kirkuk Mayor Nejmeddin Karim in Kirkuk city of northern Iraq. (Photo: AA)
2 August 2012 / TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH WIRES ,
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu arrived in the oil-rich northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Thursday in a historic visit, the first by a senior Turkish official in 75 years.
Davutoğlu's visit follows his meeting in Arbil with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani. The Turkish minister, who is the first ever top Turkish diplomat to visit Kirkuk, is expected to hold a series of talks in the city, which is also home to a sizeable population of Turkmen, ethnic kin of Turkey's ethnic majority.
“I am happy to be the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Kirkuk in 75 years. Kirkuk will be an eternal city of peace in Iraq where our Turkmen, Kurdish and Arab brothers live,” Davutoğlu said via his Twitter account on Thursday.
Turkish diplomatic sources told the Anatolia news agency that Davutoğlu's visit was long planned, but kept secret for security reasons. Davutoğlu went to Arbil on Wednesday for talks with Barzani over the latest developments in northern Syria.
The Turkish foreign minister's visit came amid Turkish concerns over emerging Kurdish rule in Syria's northern cities along the Turkish border following the withdrawal of Bashar al-Assad's forces from these predominantly Kurdish-populated areas to fight opposition forces in Damascus and Aleppo.
“Any attempt to exploit the power vacuum by any violent group or organization will be considered a common threat which should be jointly addressed. The new Syria should be free of any terrorist and extremist group or organization,” said a joint statement Barzani and Davutoğlu's offices released following talks in Arbil.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned recently that Turkey will intervene if “terrorist formations” emerge along its border. Turkey and Iraqi Kurds have built close ties over the past few years, after Barzani committed to supporting Turkey's efforts against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), either in combating PKK bases in northern Iraq or tackling PKK-affiliated groups in northern Syria.