Can Barzani help mediate between Turkey and PKK?
The KRG's Massoud Barzani says there is no military option to solve the Kurdish issue; rather, political solutions must be found.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 09/11/11
Seeking co-operation to help put an end to the rising tide of PKK attacks in Turkey, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani was invited to meet with top officials in Turkey at the weekend.
KRG President Massoud Barzani (left) and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Istanbul on Saturday (November 5th.) [Reuters]
After two-days of dialogue -- including meetings with President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and pro-Kurdish BDP representatives -- Barzani came out opposed to Turkey’s military campaign, saying "it will fail to permanently end the conflict."
"The bloodshed must stop today," Barzani underscored during a November 5th press conference at Dolmabahce Palace, adding that he would be willing to act as a mediator between the PKK and Turkey, if requested.
Some analysts argue that Barzani could help facilitate an end to immediate violence in order to provide room for political dialogue between Kurdish nationalists and the government ahead of debates on a new constitution.
The BDP has come out strongly against military operations in Turkey and northern Iraq, which it views as only exacerbating the problem.
However, Erdogan stated that the PKK should "lay down arms first, not [Turkish] security forces, who are protecting the citizens".
"If the local administration of northern Iraq will not be able to support Turkey [in its fight against the PKK], then we have to do what is necessary," state-run Anatolia News Agency quoted Erdogan as saying.
Serhat Erkmen, an analyst at the Ankara-based Centre for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, says that Barzani's visit fell short of Turkey's expectation.
"Turkey shouldn't hope for support from Iraqi Kurds regarding military co-operation anymore," he said. "That's what Barzani wanted to explain."
Ankara has complained about the KRG's inaction against the PKK in the past, but relations have steadily improved since 2008, underpinned by strong economic ties and growing political relations.
Kenan Erturk, head of the Terrorism Research Centre at the Istanbul-based 21st Century Turkey Institute, says KRG leaders seek more economic and political co-operation with Ankara, rather than fighting against the PKK.
"Barzani and his people understand very well that besides the PKK, ethnic Kurdish nationalism is also a problem in Turkey," he said. "Therefore, if he joins this battle [against the PKK], Barzani might lose his power [base] in the region."
However, Erturk says Barzani has enough influence to end violence between Turkey and the PKK, pointing out that the Iraqi Kurds were able to secure a cessation of hostilities between Tehran and the PJAK -- a PKK affiliated Iranian offshoot -- last month.
"Kurdish rebels sent him to Iran as well on October 29th with the peaceful mission between Tehran and PJAK," he said.
Similar to other analysts, Erturk expects more diplomatic activities on the Kurdish issue following Barzani's visit to Turkey. "The government is likely to discuss some steps in both political and military areas with Kurdish politicians before drafting the new constitution."
While in Istanbul, Barzani also met with the BDP MPs, asking them to "continue their struggle in the parliament".
Ibrahim Binici, a BDP MP from Sanliurfa who attended the meeting, explained they agreed with Barzani that "there is no military solution to the Kurdish problem."
He accuses Erdogan's AKP government of "ignoring the Kurdish problem inside the country, while seeking peace with the PKK outside".
"The Kurdish problem is Turkey's problem. Only those who live in Turkey can fix it," he said, adding that there have been no discussions between the government and PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan within last 104 days.
Binici says the government needs to sit down and solve things through talks with Kurdish politicians, "but there is almost no one left to talk with -- nearly 5,000 BDP members are in prison right now."
The dialogue between Kurdish deputies and Iraqi officials will continue in the coming days, Binici added.
"Right now, our party deputies will head to Iraq for further discussions with country leaders, including [Iraqi President Jalal] Talabani regarding the future of the Kurdish problem."