KRG’s Barzani visits Ankara for talks with ErdoIan

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani visited Turkey on Wednesday to have talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan.

Barzani was scheduled to meet with ErdoIan in the evening hours, after Today’s Zaman went to press. Speaking to the press on Wednesday, Energy Minister Taner YIldIz said that energy is one of the main topics that will be discussed with Barzani.

YIldIz pointed to the ongoing energy talks between Iraq’s central government and the autonomous Kurdish region in attempts to settle a dispute over oil exports from Kurdistan via a new independent pipeline to Turkey. He added that they will also discuss a meeting he held last week with Iraqi Oil Minister Abd al-Karim Luaibi.

Because of its independent energy affairs with the KRG in northern Iraq, Turkey placed relations with the central Iraqi government on the back burner despite having increased attempts to improve their troubled relationship. Economic relations with Arbil, particularly with regard to oil deals, angered Baghdad as it stressed that it is against the region’s efforts to export oil independently through a new pipeline to Turkey. Turkey claimed it was acting in compliance with the Iraqi Constitution, which allocates shares of energy revenues to the KRG. Conciliatory talks over the energy transfer are ongoing between Ankara, Arbil and Baghdad.

Barzani’s visit to Ankara comes two weeks before the first national elections in Iraq since the United States left the country. Although Turkey conducts backstage diplomacy by having talks with Iraqi officials, it has chosen to stay mum on the upcoming elections.

The already high tension in Iraq increased before the elections after Masoud Barzani, president of the KRG, announced on Sky News Arabia TV that “a Kurdish state is on the way,” according to Rudaw, an online newspaper in northern Iraq’s Arbil.

Regarding Barzani’s remarks, the US State Department expressed that the US wants a “federal, democratic, pluralistic and unified” Iraq. During a daily press briefing on Tuesday, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “We believe Iraq should be unified, including all portions of Iraq.”

Turkey, which has a Kurdish population of about 20 million, did not make any official statement regarding Barzani’s declaration. Turkey’s relations with the KRG have been developing because of recent energy deals and high-level visits. In a show of support for ErdoIan, KRG leader Barzani paid a visit to DiyarbakIr, a predominantly Kurdish city in Turkey. During his meeting with ErdoIan, Barzani renewed his support for the settlement process, which was initiated by the AK Party in late 2012 to resolve the country’s decades-old terrorism problem.

Ankara and Arbil have strengthened ties amid recent momentum in energy relations as well as other mutual regional interests.

(CihanToday’s Zaman)