Ankara to host first-ever international Kurdish conference

8 November 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, ANKARA – Representatives of Kurdish parties in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria are to come together at an international conference to be held in Ankara on Nov. 9-10.

The Ankara-based International Middle East Peace Research Center (IMPR) will be holding the conference, titled “Kurds Discussing Peace, Democracy and Solution Models.” Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Co-chairperson Selahattin Demirtaş, Democratic Union Party (PYD) Co-chair Asya Abdullah, and Mazhar Bağlı, a member of the Central Decision and Administration Board (MKYK) of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), are among those scheduled to talk at the conference.

The conference is considered a preparation meeting for the long-awaited major Kurdish conference to discuss the future of the region’s Kurds to be held in Arbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi government. The conference in Arbil, which has been postponed three times for various reasons, is expected to bring together major Kurdish political groups in the Middle East.

The Iraqi Kurdish media had attributed the postponement of the Arbil conference to deep differences between Kurdish groups over the number of delegates the different Kurdish regions in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria should have at the conference and who should be appointed conference president. In Iraq, Kurds have been in charge of their affairs since the Gulf War in 1991. Kurds in Iraq enjoy close economic relations with Ankara. Such a relationship would have been unthinkable a few years ago, when Ankara enjoyed strong ties with Iraq’s central government in Baghdad and was deep in a decades-long fight with Kurdish terrorists on its own soil.

In Syria, in recent times, Kurds have gained ground in the country’s north as a result of fierce fighting with the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, and are controlling considerable swathes of territory in the north and northeastern parts of Syria, causing disputes among Kurds, particularly between the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and other Kurdish parties. PYD leader Saleh Muslim recently paid visits to Turkey for talks with Turkish officials — considered as Turkey breaking the ice with the Syrian Kurdish group after a period of hostility. In Turkey, the ruling AK Party has launched a settlement process to resolve the country’s decades-old terrorism problem. Turkey’s settlement process is supported by Iran, Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Kurds in Turkey.In Iran, PJAK, an Iranian offshoot of the PKK that is considered a terrorist group by Iran, has sought greater autonomy for Kurdish areas of the country. The IMPR on its website has stated that the main goal of the conference is to focus on different approaches to solve the Kurdish question in Turkey and how this is perceived by the Kurds in Syria, Iraq and Iran, as well as to contribute to understanding how these perceptions, thoughts and emotions are shaped.