An Iraqi deputy has warned Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, about a recent rapprochement with Turkey, saying Turkey has never been a reliable country for the Iraqi Kurds.
Hossein Ali, a member of the Kurdistan Alliance (KA) group in the Iraqi parliament, said, "The Iraqi Kurds' reliance on Turkey can jeopardize the political future of the Kurdistan region,” on Tuesday to the Iranian semi-official Fars news agency. "All throughout history, Turkey has never been and never will be a point of reliance for Iraqi Kurds," he said, calling on Barzani to review his ties with Ankara.
Ali's remarks came after a statement made by Barzani to US officials during a recent visit to Washington that he opposes the delivery of F-16 warplanes to Iraq while Nouri al-Maliki remains prime minister, voicing fears that Iraq's Shiite-led government could use them against Iraqi Kurds.
“I told the US administration that Kurds won't accept handing over F-16 warplanes to Iraq as long as Maliki is in power,” Barzani was quoted as saying by Kurdish media outlets.
Iraqi Kurds have had strained relations with Turkey in the past due to the presence of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Kurdish-run northern Iraq, but ties have improved significantly in recent years. As ties have further normalized, Barzani has repeatedly over the last year called on the PKK to lay down its arms. The Kurds are striving to maintain balanced ties with Iraq's rival Sunni and Shiite groups, as they vie for influence in the country following the withdrawal of US troops on Dec. 31, 2011.
Ali's remarks also came amid recent tension highlighted in a row between Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
In a written press statement in late April, Maliki accused Turkey of becoming a hostile state, engaging in “unjustified interference in Iraqi internal affairs, still … dreaming [of] controlling the region” and of becoming “an aggressive state for all [in the region].”
In response, Erdoğan said a stable political system in Iraq with the equal voice of all sects and ethnicities is all that Turkey hopes for in Iraq and that even Shiite groups “are fed up with” the Shiite prime minister's sectarian-based politics in Iraq.
Political observers say Maliki is trying to ensure Shiite domination of power in his country by eliminating Sunni politicians from participation in political mechanisms. The Maliki-led central government issued an arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the top official in the Iraqi cabinet, one day after the US withdrawal from Iraq.
Iraq to Barzani: F-16s to protect Iraq from Turkey, Iran
Meanwhile, criticizing Barzani's remarks over the planned delivery of US fighter jets to Iraq, the Security and Defense Committee in the Iraqi parliament said the aircraft will be used to defend all of Iraq from threats that could come from neighbors. “These warplanes will be used in defending Iraq from external threats. These are supposed to protect Kurds as well against attacks from Turkey and Iran,” the statement was quoted as saying by the Turkish media on Wednesday.
Last year, the US agreed to sell 36 F-16 jets to Baghdad in a multi-billion dollar deal aimed at increasing the capabilities of Iraq's weak air force. The jets are expected to be delivered to Iraq by October of this year.