“Any attempt to exploit the power vacuum by any violent group or organization will be considered a common threat that should be jointly addressed. The new Syria should be free of any terrorist and extremist group or organization,” read a joint statement Barzani and Davutoğlu's offices released following talks in Arbil.
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 predominantly Kurdish-populated areas to fight opposition forces in Damascus and Aleppo.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has recently warned 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.
However, Turkey feels that these ties will be threatened if the PKK finds a new home in northern Syria as Barzani drew criticism from Turkey when he announced that Kurdish defectors from the Syrian army had been given military training in northern Iraq. Erdoğan called the development “ugly” and said Davutoğlu would tell the Kurdish leadership that they should avoid undermining trust.
An official visit by the foreign minister to northern Iraq had long been planned as Barzani has already visited Turkey twice this year. However, the visit was moved up because of security concerns perceived by Turkey due to the military presence of the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria.
Ankara has often pressured northern Iraq's Kurdish rulers to take steps against the PKK. Davutoğlu told reporters following Wednesday's talks in Arbil that he had spoken about Turkey's vision for the region along with Ankara's concerns with respect to the latest developments. “The regional administration received our message,” Davutoğlu added.
The statement also confirmed that officials had “extensive, friendly and constructive discussions” on bilateral relations and regional issues, particularly on the situation in Syria. It said Barzani and Davutoğlu had noted their satisfaction with the pace of relations and agreed to expand them in all fields, particularly in the fields of economic development and energy.
The statement added that both officials expressed their deep concern regarding instability and chaos in Syria, emphasizing that any attempt to exploit the power vacuum by any violent group or organization will be considered a common threat that should be jointly addressed.