Turkey’s Davutoğlu visits Kurdistan regional government to boost ties

5 March 2014 /İSTANBUL, TODAYSZAMAN.COM –  Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu landed in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq, on Tuesday, to boost already blossoming relations between the regional administration and Ankara as both sides move forward towards further cooperation in the field of energy.

Attending a regional meeting, the Sulaimaniya Forum, which is regarded as one of the rising summits bringing together businessmen and diplomats from the region, Davutoğlu offered a gesture to the audience by delivering his opening remarks in Kurdish. Davutoğlu was given a standing ovation after finishing his remarks, in which he mostly focused on ways to improve relations in a number of fields.

“Our generation grew up with the mentality deeming Kurds a threat [to Turkey]. Kurds are not a threat but our friends. We no longer view anyone as a threat,” said Davutoğlu, adding that “Turk, Kurd [those hostilities] have been left behind. We can only win if stand next to each other shoulder to shoulder. If we fight [each other], we all lose.” Drawing a comparison to contemporary European history, Davutoğlu said one individual one day will be able to travel from İstanbul to Basra without interruption at the border, just as Europeans experienced the lifting of the borders [following the formation of the European Union]. He also offered his best wishes to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who is undergoing medical treatment in Germany.

Davutoğlu said Ankara wants to see an end to the rift between Arbil and Baghdad, which have been locked in an unsettled dispute over oil exploration and export rights in northern Iraq, with the KRG claiming that it can strike deals with foreign companies without the approval of the central government in Baghdad as well as export oil to foreign countries, such as Turkey. The oil row has left recent oil transport deals between Arbil and Ankara in limbo, and a resolution is nowhere in sight.

As death toll heavily takes on Iraq’s fragile political and social stability, Davutoğlu said sectarian strife must end, reiterating Turkey’s commitment to preserving Iraq’s territorial integrity. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani also attended the meeting. Barzani argued that the KRG is determined to pursue its interests despite unending threats from Baghdad, claiming that the regional government’s policies do not violate the Iraqi constitution. Commenting about the summit, Zebari pointed to the progress in Turkey’s Kurdish issue, with a minister now addressing the audience in the Kurdish language, a rare gesture considering how a Kurdish deputy, Leyla Zana, was jailed in the early 1990s for speaking Kurdish in the Turkish Parliament. http://www.todayszaman.com/news-341169-turkeys-davutoglu-visits-kurdistan-regional-government-to-boost-ties.html