Iraqi Kurds hint at start of peace talks

Iraqi Kurds hint at start of peace talks

Iraqi Kurds hint at start of peace talks

BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş meets with Patriotic Union of Kurdistan delegation in Ankara.

A senior Iraqi Kurdish politician hinted that talks between the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have already started as part of the Turkish government’s recently launched peace process to disarm the militants and solve the Kurdish question.

“We [the Kurds in northern Iraq] have not yet established a commission [for talks]. But the Kurdistan Democratic Party [KDP] is in talks [with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party]. In the past, we had pursued a rather secret process but now this is not that secret any longer. We are in dialogue with those who are in the [Kandil] mountains [where the PKK is headquartered] to lay their weapons down,” said Kosrat Rasul, deputy secretary-general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), in an interview with the private broadcaster CNNTürk.

Apart from National Intelligence Organization (MİT) meetings with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK, the KRG’s involvement in the process is seen as an additional track toward reaching a breakthrough in the PKK problem. Turkish officials have already mentioned the possibility of launching talks in Arbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi autonomous region, but there were no concrete developments on the state of talks there.

Rasul’s words are interpreted to mean only initial talks have been launched in Arbil as no roadmap has been set by Turkey so far.

Hikmat Qarim, another leading PUK official, recalled that Talabani tried to mediate between the PKK and Turkish government 18 years ago and that Iraqi Kurds were always in favor of playing a role in this sense to bring peace and stability to the region. “We’ll play this role wholeheartedly. Either as the party or as the regional government, we are doing all of this within the knowledge of Turkey,” Qarim said.

The PUK official recalled that they provided their full support to the process launched by Turkey and recalled that they have promised their best to all relevant parties, including the PKK, through either private conversations or the media.

Rasul said Iraqi Kurds appreciated Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent move in launching this process to solve the Kurdish question. “We’ll always give our backing for the solution of this problem. Our support will be serious because we want a peaceful solution, not one through terrorism,” he said.

The peace process launched by the Turkish government has received strong endorsement from the PUK, whose leader is ailing Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Rasul held two days of meetings with top Turkish officials in Ankara including President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan amid Ankara’s efforts to disarm the PKK through dialogue. The PKK has its headquarters and training camps in northern Iraq, a region under the reign of Masoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government.