Iraq’s Barzani urges dialogue as Kurds prepare for grand conference / PKK leader’s demand for press meeting gets harsh reaction from opposition

24 July 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL – The Iraqi Kurdish president has said dialogue and democracy are the only way for the Kurdish nation to reassert itself in this “new era” as Kurds are preparing to hold a grand Kurdish congress in Arbil next month.

Massoud Barzani invited major Kurdish political and military actors in the Middle East to Arbil on Monday to lay out the agenda of a Kurdish conference next month. Led by Barzani, the goal of the conference is to seek ways to tackle challenges in Syria, where Kurds are preparing to declare an autonomous state, and the settlement process in Turkey.

“On behalf of myself, Jalal Talabani, the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK], and [imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader] Abdullah Öcalan, I ask you to send your high level delegations to participate in the National Kurdish Conference,” Barzani’s invitation reads, according to the Iraq-based newspaper Rudaw.

The newspaper said the Iraqi Kurdish leader had talks with representatives of 39 Kurdish political parties from Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq and told them that they are aiming to promote dialogue, peace and democracy among Kurdish groups and “to ensure that the will of the Kurdish people in all four parts of Kurdistan is respected” with the planned conference.

Barzani said in his speech to the participants in Monday’s meeting that Kurds want to restore peace and build democracy in the region and that arms cannot achieve these goals. “What we need is peace,” he underlined, adding that the freedom of Kurds hangs on peace and the improvement of the regional economy and not war, attacks and threats to “our neighbors.” He heralded a “new era” when the “most powerful weapon” will be the language of dialogue, peace and democracy. He said armed struggle by Kurds was only imposed on them by others and that “no one can face Kurds with weapons in this new era.” “This reality was also understood by regional countries and forces, as well as the fact that eradicating Kurds won’t even happen in dreams,” Barzani said.

Barzani also said at the end of his speech that he hoped for Iraqi President “Mr. [Jalal] Talabani and Mr. Öcalan to be among us,” adding, “I hope Talabani will recover soon and Öcalan will be freed and that we will continue our fight altogether for the interest of our nation.”

Rudaw reported that Iraqi Kurdistan’s opposition leaders welcomed Barzani’s initiative and promised to attend the conference despite serious political disagreements. Saadi Ahmed Pira, a senior PUK leader, told Rudaw that Iran and Turkey, who are usually wary of Kurdish plans, have also consented to the conference being held. The report said Kurds from Turkey will feature greatly in the conference, by assigning six delegates to travel to Arbil.

PKK spokesman Ahmed Deniz told Rudaw that Murat Karayılan, the leader of the People’s Defense Forces (HPG) — the armed wing of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that also includes PKK, and Barzani recently had talks to discuss the details of the conference.

“We have conveyed our thoughts about the conference and also learned about the opinion of the other side,” Deniz said, as quoted in the report.

Independent Mardin deputy Ahmet Türk, the former leader of the now-defunct pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), told Rudaw that the Kurds attending the conference do not aim to create a united Kurdistan. “We will gather to tell each other what we as Kurds should do in the Middle East,” he said.

Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Arbil representative Mehmet Aydın told Rudaw that his party “will do whatever it takes to make the conference a success.” He said Öcalan endorsed the conference and is “eager to see it become a reality.” Democratic Union Party (PYD) Co-chairs Saleh Muslim and Asya Abdullah; BDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş; Türk; and members of the KCK Executive Board Sabri Ok, Zeki Şengali and Ronahi Serhat were also among the participants at Monday’s meeting in Arbil.