Turkey offers northern Iraq investment for peace
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 6/3/2010 12:00:00 AM | SEVİL KÜÇÜKKOŞUM
Turkey will boost its economic activities in northern Iraq if Iraqi Kurdish authorities improve security conditions and step up their cooperation on anti-terror activities, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Thursday. (UPDATED)
Turkey will boost its economic activities in northern Iraq if Iraqi Kurdish authorities improve security conditions and step up their cooperation in anti-terror activities, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Thursday.
“We expect full cooperation from all Iraqi brothers, especially from the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Administration, in the fight against terrorism,” Davutoğlu said at a joint press conference with administration president Massoud Barzani, who is paying a landmark visit to Turkey after a gap of six years.
Ankara used Barzani’s visit, seen as a first important step toward normalization of relations between the parties, to introduce its new “carrot and stick” approach to the Iraqi Kurds.
Thursday’s talks focused on economic ties between Ankara and the northern Iraqi administration, as well as security cooperation against increasing terrorist activities by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has some of its bases in the region.
“What is new with this visit is that we in the past solely used the ‘stick,’ but now we also have a ‘carrot’ for them,” a senior foreign ministry official who was familiar with the talks told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review after the Barzani-Davutoğlu meeting.
“We are talking about 400 companies that are doing business in Barzani’s area and we are talking about developing the infrastructure there,” the diplomat added. “We want him to see the larger picture and we think he has started to tune into this.”
Many Turkish companies – particularly in the construction, energy and infrastructure sectors – have invested in northern Iraq following the demise of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
“We have made the decision to implement a strategy enhancing economic integration between us. A work of full economic integration will be conducted as the bridge for these close relations between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds,” Davutoğlu told reporters at the press conference.
This common strategy, he said, involves energy and transportation projects, noting the establishment of Arbil branches of İşbank and Ziraat Bank and the beginning of direct flights to the northern Iraqi city.
At the press conference with Davutoğlu, Barzani also expressed his willingness to enhance relations in every field.
[HH] The ‘stick’ part
Returning to the “stick” part of the conversation, Turkish officials made clear their concrete expectations from Barzani, giving him a list of senior PKK members they want to see arrested and deported to Turkey, the same senior diplomat said. Turkey has made this request several times in the past with no positive answer from the northern Iraqi leader.
“He was given all kinds of evidence and intelligence reports on the PKK. We made it clear to him once again that we insist on the implementation of this needed cooperation,” the diplomat said.
During his trip to Turkey, where he also met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Barzani repeated his support for Turkey’s fight against terrorism, but did not specify efforts to battle the PKK. “We want to maintain better relations,” sources quoted Barzani as saying.
Terrorism is the major threat to fraternity between the two peoples, Davutoğlu said at the press conference. “Vision, peace, security and a future cannot be established in a place where terrorism prevails,” he said. “Thus, we expect full cooperation from our Iraqi brothers, especially from the Iraqi Kurdish regional administration, in the fight against terrorism. We are pleased with the recent increasing cooperation.”
As Barzani’s visit coincides with signs of an escalation in PKK attacks, Ankara was expecting him to send a strong message against terrorism during his visit.
Commenting on Monday’s deadly attack by the PKK in İskenderun, Barzani said: “We are saddened by the deaths of young people, no matter they are Turkish or Kurdish. This has to end once and for all. We in no way favor the continuation of violence. We do not separate our security from that of Turkey. We will exert all effort to stop these saddening events.”
In response to a question about his scheduled meeting with Selahattin Demirtaş, the leader of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, Barzani said he had welcomed the Turkish government’s “democratic initiative” and hoped all Kurds would support it.