Barzani, Erdoğan find common ground against Maliki government

April 20, 2012, Friday/ 17:21:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani's two-day talks in İstanbul and Ankara appear to have focused on tensions brewing between Iraq's Shiite-led government and minority Sunnis and Kurds, which prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has described as “ominous.”

Barzani had closed-door talks with Erdoğan in İstanbul on Thursday and met with President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in Ankara on Friday. Speaking to reporters about his meeting with Barzani, Erdoğan said both Barzani and the cross-sectarian Iraqiya group are “seriously bothered” by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's policies.

Erdogan said they had discussed Syria, Iraq and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) issue with Barzani in the meeting, which Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and National Intelligence organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan also attended.

Erdoğan answered questions from the press prior to his visit to Qatar on Thursday. When asked what particular issues were discussed with Barzani, Erdoğan replied that he was not going to disclose the details, adding that, in summary, Iraq was the priority issue that constituted the agenda of the meeting.

Erdoğan said the developments in Iraq were ominous. “The behavior of the current prime minister towards his own coalition partners and his self-centered attitude and approach of pushing limits in Iraq seriously bothers Barzani, the cross-sectarian Iraqiya group and the Shiite groups. These developments affect the process negatively. We [Erdoğan and Barzani] focused on these issues,” the prime minister said.

Barzani said Maliki was holding power in one hand, although in the constitution the balance of power was clear. “Iraq is for all of us. The political tension in Iraq must be solved according to the existing constitutional order. The share of money and power is clear in the constitution. Baghdad is slow in transfering funds to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the amount is often too low," said Barzani.

Erdoğan also said developments in Syria were evaluated during the meeting. He added that their [Erdoğan and Barzani] approaches towards the Syrian crisis correlated.

Erdoğan underlined that the PKK terrorist organization was the third issue on the table and that both sides [Erdoğan and Barzani] had parallel approaches against PKK. “Barzani said they were disturbed by the PKK and that it was impossible to approve the approaches of the terrorist organization. We [Erdoğan and Barzani] will be in touch. The two countries also engage in economic cooperation. We will act together on energy and infrastructure,” said Erdoğan.

Barzani also met with Iraq's fugitive Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi in İstanbul on Thursday. Al-Hashemi, the top Sunni Muslim official in Iraq's Shiite Muslim-dominated government, said that he and Barzani discussed recent trips to the United States and Gulf countries.

Al-Hashemi, for whom the Shiite-led central government issued an arrest warrant in late 2011, arrived in Turkey earlier this month after his visits to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Hashemi recently stated that he will return to Iraq and will not seek political asylum in neighboring countries.

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