Turkey to increase pressure on Barzani over PKK

Turkey to increase pressure on Barzani over PKK

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Ankara is set to ratchet up the pressure on Iraqi Kurdish leaders to cooperate more effectively with Turkey to eradicate outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members sheltered in northern Iraq during a senior official’s critical visit to Arbil.

Public Order and Security Undersecretary Murat Özçelik has been tasked with holding meetings with Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), in northern Iraq today, a day after the country’s top security board, the National Security Council (MGK), urged Iraqi Kurds to adopt concrete steps to purge the region of PKK militants, Turkish officials told the Hürriyet Daily News. 

Coupled with the MGK’s call, Özçelik’s visit to northern Iraq indicates a fine-tuning in Turkey’s anti-PKK combat strategies, moving engagement with Barzani onto the front burner. Özçelik, a senior diplomat whose most recent position was as Turkish ambassador in Baghdad, has vast knowledge about Iraq and has networks across different ethnic and sectarian political groups. 

In his two-day visit, Özçelik will also hold talks with Masrour Barzani, the KRG’s intelligence chief, and KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. In Masoud Barzani’s visit to Turkey last November, Ankara offered the Kurdish leader the chance to take a role in the process to convince the PKK to lay down its arms, the Daily News has learned.

Özçelik is expected to remind Barzani and other leading Iraqi Kurdish politicians about the measures that need to be taken against the PKK, whose main headquarters and training camps are located in Barzani-controlled regions. Cutting logistics, blocking access to and from the PKK camps, restricting the propaganda means of the PKK and maintaining effective cooperation with the Turkish military to crack down on militants are among Turkish biggest expectations. 

Turkey’s move comes a week after Masoud Barzani called on Turkish-Kurdish groups to continue their struggle in peaceful ways, indirectly calling on the PKK to end its armed conflict. The PKK, formed in the early 1980s, is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. 
Özçelik paid his first visit abroad to the U.S. in early January and held talks with his American counterparts on how cooperation could be deepened. 

Özçelik to visit Southeast Anatolia

Following his visit to northern Iraq, Özçelik is expected to go to southeastern Anatolia, a region subject to frequent PKK attacks and whose population is predominantly Kurdish, as part of his institution’s mission to develop strategies, share intelligence and coordinate efforts against PKK terrorism. 

The MGK gathered Feb. 27 and reaffirmed the need to take concrete steps to end the presence of the militant organization in northern Iraq, according to its written statement.

The council reaffirmed efforts to eliminate sources of terrorism in line with democracy and the principles of the rule of law and universal values.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu met with a delegation of Iraqi parliamentarians from the National Movement for Development and Reform, a Sunni party.