Barzani Insists on Kurds’ Right to Independence

ANKARA (Zaman)–Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, called on Turkey for face-to-face talks to end high-running tensions over Kurdish terrorists based in northern Iraq and argued that Turkey and Iran’should get used to the idea of Kurds’ right to independence. In a television interview broadcast Monday on the Turkish NTV news station, he said: "Dialogue is the best way to resolve problems and misunderstandings. We must talk face to face to understand each other’s position. This will be followed by discussions on what should be done and necessary actions. We are extending Turkey a hand of friendship. We will be pleased if Turkey responds in kind." His appeal coincides with remarks by Turkish officials that they can meet Iraqi Kurdish leaders to discuss the problems. On Friday the National Security Council, which groups Turkey’s top civilian and military leaders, also put the emphasis on "diplomatic efforts" to resolve the row. Turkey’s military has long accused Iraqi Kurds of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody separatist campaign for Kurdish self-rule in southeast Turkey since 1984, killing more than 30,000 people. Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Ya?ar Bykan?t had said that two main Kurdish political parties in Iraq support about 3,000 separatists camped out along Iraq’s border with Turkey. Barzani denied that Iraqi Kurds supported the PKK. He stressed that they should not be expected to fight PKK members in a remote region near Iranian and Turkish borders stressing that the area has long been outside the control of any government. He urged Ankara for political measures to curb the PKK and said, "We will do our best if we are asked to help in such a process as friends." After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Turkey appealed to the US to do more to crack down on the Kurdish rebels inside Iraq. The US considers the PKK a terrorist organization and has said the majority of PKK members operate out of Kurdish regions of northern Iraq. But US and Iraqi officials have insisted on diplomacy–not military force–to resolve the issue. In response to a question regarding Turkey’s concerns on the establishment of a Kurdish state, because it fears that it could fuel the PKK’s insurgency in the adjoining southeast Turkey, Barzani said his region "will continue to be a part of Iraq as long as Iraq preserves its federal democratic structure," but insisted that independence was "the most natural right" of the Kurds, who also live in Syria and Iran. "[The] Kurdish population in the region is about 40 million but the history was not just for them. They have been divided. Denial of Kurdish reality has not solved any problems. An independent structure is the most natural right of the Kurds. Turks, Iranians and Arabs should understand that this is not a threat. We cannot have it in an environment of violence. We need to find a common ground and watch out for each others’ interests." Ankara and the Iraqi Kurds are also at loggerheads over the future of the ethnically volatile, oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The Kurds want to incorporate it into their autonomous region although the city is also home to Arabs and Turkish-backed Turkmens. Barzani described the city as "the heart of Kurdistan" and dismissed Turkish calls for a postponement of a referendum on its status, scheduled to be held by the year’s end. He also rejected Ankara’s accusations that tens of thousands of Kurds had been moved into Kirkuk to change its demographics in their favor ahead of the vote. Turkey is worried that Kurdish control of Kirkuk’s oil reserves will boost what it sees as Kurdish aspirations to break away from Baghdad.

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