Iraqi Kurdistan offers olive branch to Ankara with renewed anti-terror commitment

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and ex-President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani greet people during a ceremony in Diyarbakir. (Reuters/file)
Updated 04 January 2018
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Iraqi Kurdistan offers olive branch to Ankara with renewed anti-terror commitment

ANKARA: The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is reportedly attempting to recover its relations with Turkey by contributing to Ankara’s anti-terrorism efforts.
According to Turkish press reports, Irbil is planning to establish security along its border with Turkey, often used by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists to infiltrate Turkey from northern Iraq and conduct terror attacks. As a practical step, the KRG has some plans to declare security zones in regions near Turkish borders.
Consequently, civilians will not be permitted to cross into the security zones, and those trying to enter these zones will be considered terrorists and be prevented from crossing.
Northern Iraq has been a long-time hub for terrorist activities against the Turkish state. In early November 2017, Turkish security forces clashed with PKK terrorists who were trying to cross the border from northern Iraq, resulting in the death of eight Turkish soldiers.
The bilateral ties between the KRG and Turkey shattered following the independence referendum the KRG held on Sept. 25, 2017, despite all regional and international warnings against it.
After the referendum, international flights to Iraqi Kurdistan were canceled at the request of Baghdad, but Turkey did not close its land border with the region.
And now, with the deteriorating economic conditions in Iraqi Kurdistan, its lose of control of the oilfields in Kirkuk and the high rate of unemployment leading to protests in Sulaymaniyah last month, the Irbil government has become obliged to reconcile with regional countries.
Galip Dalay, research director at Al-Sharq Forum in Istanbul, thinks that apart from this latest step, it is plausible to expect a gradual mending of ties between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan.
“The fact that the KRG leadership has visited Europe through Turkey points to such a prospect,” Dalay told Arab News.
In the first two weeks of December, KRG officials, including Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Deputy Qubad Talabani, paid visits to France and then to Germany by crossing by land into Turkey, and then taking a flight from there to discuss regional issues, including the fight against Daesh and the deadlock on Irbil-Baghdad relations.
Nevertheless, Dalay noted that this rapprochement process between Irbil and Ankara would be slow and gradual, and a swift recovery of relations is unlikely.
“Beside foreign policy projections, Turkey’s domestic politics will define the momentum of such a rapprochement. In this respect, if KRG’s recent decision is materialized, this will contribute to giving a positive momentum to the relationship,” he said.
Ali Semin, a Middle East expert from Istanbul-based think-tank Bilgesam, said this latest move by Irbil to forge a relationship with Turkey is the outcome of the isolation of the KRG following the independence referendum, both regionally and internationally.
According to Semin, the KRG cannot afford further deterioration with Turkey under its current international isolation, and the decrease in Turkish investments in the region has further contributed to its economic difficulties.
But the plan is not feasible without adequate human resources, he said.
“Currently Irbil, due to the dire economic state of the region, cannot pay the salaries of its Kurdish Peshmerga forces and civil servants. So such a plan will mostly fail unless it is supported by Turkey’s contributions with its own soldiers or launching a military training camp in this region, similar to Bashiqa camp in Mosul,” Semin told Arab News.
Although it was later considered by Iraq’s central government a move against “national sovereignty,” Turkish troops have been stationed in Bashiqa in northern Iraq following an invitation by Baghdad in 2014 with the mission of training Peshmerga forces in the fight against Daesh.
Semin also noted that the KRG began seeing the PKK as an imminent security threat to itself after the terror group recently declared autonomy in five regions in northern Iraq.
Turkey has recently launched sweeping aerial operations against PKK hideouts following the terror group’s recent attacks from northern Iraq to Turkish territories with rocket launchers.
“The KRG leadership is also concerned that central government’s security forces might conduct an operation in the region if the PKK gains regional clout,” Semin noted.


Russia’s Vladimir Putin praises Erdogan’s ‘great political authority’ after re-election

Updated 25 June 2018
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Russia’s Vladimir Putin praises Erdogan’s ‘great political authority’ after re-election

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday congratulated Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his re-election triumph in a phone call
  • Erdogan — who has dominated Turkey’s politics for the last decade and a half — on Monday won five more years in office

MOSCOW: Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday congratulated Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his re-election triumph in a phone call, after saying the result showed the Turkish leader’s “great political authority” and mass support.
On the call Putin and Erdogan confirmed their interest in “deepening partnership ties between the two countries,” the Kremlin said, singling out priority projects such as the TurkStream gas pipeline and Turkey’s first nuclear power plant being built by Moscow.
In a telegram earlier Monday, Putin had “stressed that the results of the vote fully speak of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s great political authority (and) mass support of the course conducted under his leadership to solve Turkey’s pressing social and economic tasks (and) strengthen the country’s position in the international arena.”
Erdogan — who has dominated Turkey’s politics for the last decade and a half — on Monday won five more years in office with sweeping new powers after a decisive election victory while the opposition raised questions over the conduct of the polls.
Putin stressed his readiness to continue “close joint work” and dialogue with Erdogan, whose ruling party-led alliance also won an overall majority in parliament, the Kremlin said.
“This is certainly in the interests of the peoples of Russia and Turkey,” the Kremlin said in a statement, praising the “partner-like ties” between the two nations.
Putin himself extended his almost two-decade-long rule by winning a fourth Kremlin term in March at a time of high tension with the West.
Putin and Erdogan — who have both led their post-imperial states out of economic crisis but also into a new era of confrontation with the West — have forged an increasingly close alliance in recent months.
In a sign of the importance of the partnership, Putin went to Turkey during his first trip abroad after winning a historic fourth presidential mandate in March 18 polls.
Turkey and Russia are on opposite sides in Syria, with Moscow remaining the chief ally of President Bashar Assad’s regime and Ankara backing rebels seeking his ouster.
However, they have worked closely in recent months despite their differences to try to achieve a political solution in Syria.
Ankara-Moscow relations were tested by a severe crisis in November 2015 when Turkey shot down a Russian war plane over Syria, a confrontation both sides have since tried to put behind them.