ANKARA / DOHA
Speaking separately but in unison, Turkish PM Erdoğan and Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani implore the outlawed PKK to cease its armed fight
Turkish President Abdullah Gül (L) shakes hand with the leader of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani at the Çankaya Palace. The visiting leader says no solution can be found by using weapons and calls on the PKK lay arms down. AP photo
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK) should cease armed conflict and pursue peaceful methods to advocate for more rights for Kurds, both Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
and Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani said on April 19.
“If the PKK
continues its armed conflict then they will bear the consequences. I will not allow the PKK
to continue its rule in Iraqi Kurdistan,” Barzani told reporters at a press conference held following talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. Barzani’s visit comes at a moment when the government has made an adjustment to its counter-terrorism strategy, placing dialogue with the Peace and Development Party (BDP) at its center, while asking for Barzani’s help in convincing the PKK
to lay down its weapons. Peaceful methods
“In our age, no solution can be found by using weapons. They [the PKK] had better lend an ear to me, I am reflecting my own perspective and experience,” Barzani said. When asked whether he implied that his peshmargas would use force against the PKK
to make them lay down their weapons, Barzani said he was against another internal conflict between Kurds. He added that he could only do this by either applying political pressure or convincing them through words. “I will do my best to find a solution to this problem through peaceful means,” he said. “Another armed conflict would damage the Kurds’ cause.”
In Doha, Erdoğan underlined the government’s position once again, saying “The army’s operations will continue unless the terrorists drop their arms. … Our call to the terror organization is that they need to lay down weapons. If they drop their weapons, our position, as the state of the Republic of Turkey, will be to cease all military operations. But if they do not do this, ending military operations is out of question.”
One important venue for pursuing this policy will be the Kurdish Conference, likely to be held in June in Arbil under the leadership of Barzani. The Iraqi Kurdish leader described the meeting as a platform to make calls for peace, but said that he had never pledged to make a strict call to the PKK
to lay down its weapons.
Turkish officials expressed their expectation of more concrete actions from Barzani, especially in terms of measures to end the PKK’s activities in northern Iraq, according to information the Hürriyet Daily News
gathered from diplomatic sources. Cooperation between the two sides must be maintained through the exchange of intelligence and information, officials said.
Another major topic Barzani and Turkish officials discussed was the ongoing political crisis in Iraq, which has caused Barzani to issue public warnings to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
that Kurds would be forced to decide their own future if he continues his dictatorship-like reign.
“The solution to Iraq’s problem lies in the Iraqi constitution,” Barzani said, adding that the Iraqi government would be obliged to put a referendum before Kurds if the current Iraqi constitution was not satisfactorily implemented.
“To be an independent state is the right of all nations. If they cannot solve the problems in Iraq, then we’ll have to ask our people to make a decision, because we’ll have no other option,” Barzani said.
Turkish officials urged Barzani to be loyal to Iraq’s territorial integrity and not take such a step, which would deepen the already existing instability in the country.
“Our hope is to see Iraq maintain its territorial integrity,” Erdoğan said, adding that partition of Iraq would bring no benefit to any Iraqi group. “A divided Iraq will never be a strong Iraq. This will weaken the Iraqi people and Iraqi state. That’s why we are opting for its territorial integrity.”
Barzani also met with a delegation of senior Kurdish politicians, including Selahattin Demirtaş and Gültan Kışanak, the co-chairs of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), and independent lawmaker Ahmet Türk, who heads the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), an umbrella Kurdish group.
The turmoil in Syria and the pro-regime stance of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), regarded as the PKK’s offshoot in Syria, was high on the agenda at the talks.