Turkey strategic partner, says Iraqi Kurd premier

Turkey strategic partner, says Iraqi Kurd premier

Sefer Levent ARBIL / Radikal
Turkey strategic partner, says Iraqi Kurd premier

KRG PM Barzani (C), TÜSİAD President Ümit Boyner (L) and Koç Group chairman Mustafa Koç (2nd L) leave their hand prints on a platform at the opening ceremony of Divan Hotel in Arbil. DHA p

Turkey is a strategic partner and the solution to the ongoing crisis between Arbil and Baghdad should be based on territorial integrity in line with the Iraqi constitution, Kurdistan  Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has said.

Upon being asked about KRG leader Masoud Barzani’s statement that he would hold a referendum on the Kurdish region’s relations with the Nouri al-Maliki government if disputes over power sharing could not be resolved, the KRG premier said: “The president is not implying just Kurds. His advice is not only for Kurdish region but for the whole of Iraq. We are concerned for Shiites, Turkmens and Arabs as well.

The first choice is a solution based on territorial integrity which is in line with the constitution and the second one is to return to the Parliament. Iraq is all for us.” Barzani also stated that he didn’t agree Turkey had become closer to Arbil and was drifting away from the Baghdad government since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December. The months-long political impasse began when the government issued terrorism charges against the nation’s highest-ranking Sunni, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Al-Hashemi fled to northern Iraq, which declined to hand him over to Baghdad and then permitted him to leave on a regional tour that took him to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Speaking with reporters after the opening ceremony of the Divan Hotel in Arbil, Barzani labeled Turkey a “strategic partner” of Iraq. “I don’t agree with al-Maliki’s criticism that Turkey is interfering in the internal politics of Iraq. Turkey is Iraq’s best neighbor and it is our strategic partner in economics,” Barzani said, adding that the trade volume between the region and Turkey currently amounted to $8 billion.

Visit to Turkey

Touching on the trade ties with Turkey, Barzani said it was very important for the KRG that the Koç Group had decided to invest in Arbil and called on other companies to invest in the future. Barzani also claimed that there was no security problem in the KRG region: “Our region is 100 percent safe. I don’t want you to feel sorry but the region is actually safer than Istanbul.”

He also said they were claiming their constitutional rights in the ongoing dispute over Exxon. “If Exxon does not think we have constitutional rights they will not come to the region and invest here. The problem here is that al-Maliki government says ‘do not claim your rights.’” Barzani also said he was pleased that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called him when he was elected as prime minister and that he was hoping to come to Ankara for a visit in the near future to improve relations.