Turkey-KRG talks focus on Syria refugees

Turkey-KRG talks focus on Syria refugees

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey-KRG talks focus on Syria refugees

FM Davutoğlu (R) welcomes Kurdistan Regional Government leader Barzani at the Foreign Ministry residence in Ankara.

The Syrian crisis was high on the agenda of talks between Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and the president of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) yesterday. Masoud Barzani expressed concern over the rising number of Syrian refugees in his region.

The number of Syrians fleeing the civil war in their homeland and seeking refuge in Turkey meanwhile has climbed close to the 100,000 threshold, Turkish officials said yesterday.

During his meeting with Davutoğlu, Barzani shared his concerns over the situation of Syrian refugees, while also voicing worry over prospects that the catastrophic situation in Syria may spread to his region, diplomatic sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Northern Iraq is at the moment home to around 29,000 Syrian refugees, and this number is gradually rising, Barzani explained.

The issue also came up during technical-level talks and the KRG delegation asked Turkey to share their experiences in regards to coordination on the issue, the same sources said. The KRG delegation has particularly been eager to learn about ongoing work by the Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD).

As of yesterday, Turkey is currently hosting 93,576 refugees housed in several camps in the southeast along the Syrian border, the AFAD said in a statement. Davutoğlu conveyed Turkey’s views on establishing a security zone inside Syria in case the number of refugees in Turkey exceeded what he described as “the psychological threshold of 100,000,” at the U.N. Security Council meeting in August. The U.N. refugee agency says the figure could reach 200,000 by the end of the year. AFAD officials told the Daily News that aid efforts will continue independently from the rapidly increasing number of Syrians. “We will continue to provide humanitarian support to Syrians. With the opening of the Adıyaman, Kahramanmaraş and Osmaniye camps the procedure of registering Syrians has returned to normal,” an AFAD official said.

Common understanding on anti-terror fight

At the end of August, some 7,000 refugees have massed on the border with Turkey, waiting for more camps to be set up to accommodate those fleeing the fighting in Syria. Turkey and Iraqi Kurdish leaders, meanwhile, reiterated their common understanding for further cooperation in the fight against the PKK. Davutoğlu told Barzani Turkey’s concerns over the affiliation of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) of Syria with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), diplomatic sources told the Daily News.

Davutoğlu consecutively held separate meetings yesterday with Barzani; Ayad al-Samarrai, secretary-general of the Iraqi Islamic Party; Barham Salih, deputy secretary-general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK); and Mohammed Faraj, secretary-general of the Kurdish Islamic Federation. Barzani said the KRG was ready to do “whatever they can to contribute to Turkey’s efforts to end the fight,” according to the sources.

Turkey is still uneasy about a renewed PKK presence in its conflict-hit neighbor through the PYD, a group in the north of Syria the militant organization has ties with. During the meeting, Turkey “affirmed its perception of the PYD,” a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the Daily News. The political crisis in Iraq was also discussed at the talks with Barzani and Davutoğlu. The Iraqi Kurdish leader said they placed emphasis on bilateral relations between the two countries, and Turkey’s rising importance in the international arena.