AKP, MHP in row over Iraqi Kurdistan Government flag

AKP, MHP in row over Iraqi Kurdistan Government flag

AKP, MHP in row over Iraqi Kurdistan Government flag

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The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have engaged in a spat on the raising of the flag of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) during Massoud Barzani’s visit to Istanbul on Feb. 26. 

“This is Iraq’s own internal affair, it does not directly concern us. But the same flag being raised as equal to the Turkish flag in Turkey is scandalous, careless and a disgrace,” MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli said in an address to his party’s group in parliament on Feb. 28.

“We have absolutely no toleration of seeing Barzani’s flag in our homeland, in the prime minister’s offices,” Bahçeli added. 

The AKP and the MHP have been recently allied for a package of constitutional amendments that introduces the shift from parliamentary system into executive-presidency in line with the ruling party’s years-long objective. 

His comments came after KRG President Massoud Barzani met Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a visit to Turkey on Feb. 26 and Feb 27.

Debate was sparked as the KRG flag was hung up alongside the Turkish and Iraqi flags at airports in Istanbul and Ankara, as well as in the meeting room where the meeting was held between Barzani and Yıldırım.

MHP head Bahçeli, who supports the government’s bid to shift Turkey to an executive presidential system in a referendum on April 16, slammed the raising of the KRG flag.”

“Who let this so-called flag flutter in Istanbul? How long has Turkey recognized the flag of the Peshmerga remnants who are talking about a referendum for independence in northern Iraq and giving opinions about the release of arrested [Kurdish issue-focused People’s Democratic Party] HDP deputies?” he said, slamming Barzani for giving support to outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).

“This person [Barzani] must first give account for the support he has given to the PKK and for our martyrs, paying the price for the traps he set in Turkey,” Bahçeli added.

PM defends move 

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım responded to the criticisms, saying the KRG is recognized around the world as “an autonomous structure with its own parliament, prime minister, ministers and its own flag.”

“It is not possible to see [the criticisms] as well-intentioned, bringing the issue onto the agenda as if it is a new practice,” Yıldırım said addressing his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) group in parliament on Feb. 28.

“Turkey respects the territorial integrity of Iraq and the Iraqi constitution. We cannot and have not been developing other diplomatic customs or putting forward new procedures,” he added.