Kurdish leader to discuss Iraq, Syria tensions, PKK terrorism in Ankara

Nechirvan Barzani (Photo: Today's Zaman)

May 16, 2012, Wednesday/ 12:39:00

Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration in northern Iraq, was to arrive in Ankara later on Wednesday for talks with Turkish officials that are expected to focus on tensions in Iraq, the situation in Syria as well as cooperation against terrorism.

Barzani is slated to meet with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in separate meetings in the coming days.

The Kurdish politician's visit is his first visit abroad since he was appointed as prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in March for a second time.

In April, Massoud Barzani, the KRG president, also visited Ankara as once-strained ties between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds are now turning into a regional alliance amid newfound common ground in anti-terrorism efforts and regarding internal tensions in Iraq.

Turkey's improving ties with Iraqi Kurdistan come as relations with the central government in Baghdad have soured over a row between Ankara and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who Turkish authorities claim is seeking to monopolize political power in Iraq. Turkey is presently harboring Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who is wanted by the Iraqi authorities and Interpol for his alleged role in sectarian killings during the Iraq War.

Turkey has dismissed calls to hand Hashemi over to either Baghdad or Interpol. During his trip to Turkey in April, Massoud Barzani met with the wanted vice president.

In a bitter exchange that flared up between Erdoğan and Maliki following Erdoğan's talks with Massoud Barzani, the Turkish prime minister accused his Iraqi counterpart of acting to incite tensions between the country's Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, while Maliki in turn called Turkey a "hostile state" that interferes in Iraqi internal affairs.

In addition to internal tensions in Iraq, Barzani's agenda is also likely to include talks concerning joint counterterrorism operations against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), based in northern Iraq, and the deteriorating security situation in neighboring Syria. Barzani is also expected to discuss growing trade ties between the two partners.

In November, Nechirvan Barzani rushed to Ankara for a hastily arranged visit to extend condolences to Turkish officials after a deadly PKK attack killed 24 soldiers and to reaffirm the KRG's readiness to cooperate with Turkey in efforts against the terrorist group.

Barzani, who belongs to Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), was the prime minister of the Kurdish region from 2006 to 2009. In March, he replaced Barham Salih of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) under an agreement in which the two main parties in northern Iraq rotate the main government posts.

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