Iraqi Kurdish leader meets president, PM
ANKARAIraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani met Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Feb. 27 to discuss the struggle against the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant (ISL) in Iraq and Syria, Turkey’s support for the KRG in overcoming its economic crisis, the presence of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq’s Sinjar region, as well as energy issues.
His discussions with Yıldırım came after a meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Feb. 26 with the participation of Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan and Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmet Yıldız.
“During the meeting President Barzani and President Erdoğan spoke of the ongoing military operation against the terrorists of the Islamic State in the city of Mosul, where President Barzani reiterated his position of the importance of planning for the post-liberation of the city,” a shortened English version of the statement from the KRG presidency said.
Barzani’s office said discussions included economic relations between Turkey and the KRG, political developments in the region, especially in Syria, and the results of the visit made by Yıldırım to the Iraqi Kurdish region.
Iraqi forces launched an operation to liberate Mosul of ISIL months ago, with the eastern bank of the city mostly freed of the jihadists last month and the liberation of the western bank kick-started this past week.
“President Erdoğan stated that Turkey will continue to support the Kurdistan Region during these difficult times as the collective effort against the terrorists of the Islamic State continues,” the statement said.
Political developments in the region and Syria, negotiations in Geneva, the impact of the changes in international balances in the region and relations between Turkey and Iraq were also discussed, according to the statement.
Barzani said he had “a very good meeting” with Erdoğan, adding that they had discussed “all subjects,” according to Rudaw.net.
Barzani also met Ahmet Türk, the ousted co-mayor of Mardin for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and Ağrı Co-Mayor Sırrı Sakık, on Feb. 27 to discuss the shattered peace process in Turkey.
“Barzani is an important actor in the Middle East. Selahattin Demirtaş, Figen Yüksekdağ – the HDP’s co-chairs – parliamentarians and mayors are jailed at a time that we want to develop dialogue. We said that this stands in front of peace. It will be in favor of the people of Turkey if peace and an environment of dialogue is re-established,” Türk told reporters after his meeting with the Iraqi Kurdish leader.
Asked about claims that Barzani’s visit could aid the government before the April 16 referendum, Türk said he did not think so. “It will not work much if the government has such an attitude. Everyone has to respect a decision given in free will for the referendum,” he added.
Kurdish flag at meeting
The KRG flag was raised at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport on Feb. 26 for the official visit of the leader of the autonomous Iraqi region.
The KRG flag, alongside the Iraqi and Turkish flags, was raised in front of the state guest house within the airport after Barzani flew in to Istanbul to hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“The visit was simultaneous with raising the flag of Kurdistan at the Istanbul airport,” a statement from the KRG presidency said, according to Rudaw.net’s English website.
After the Kurdish flag was raised at airports in Istanbul and Ankara for the visit of the Iraqi Kurdish leader, the flag was also flown in the meeting room for the gathering of Barzani and Yıldırım. But in a Feb. 26 meeting between the Iraqi Kurdish leader and Erdoğan, only a Turkish flag was present.