Iraqi Kurdish leader calls for peace between Turkey and PKK
Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani urged both the Turkish government and the PKK to find a peaceful solution. (AFP/File)
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Leader of the northern Iraqi Kurdish region, Masoud Barzani has called on both the Turkish government and the PKK group to return to the negotiating table to find a peaceful solution to long-standing conflict between them.
In a written statement late Sunday that he described as his "personal thoughts", Barzani praised the Turkish government's efforts and criticized the PKK's policies, while also hailing Turkey's military involvement in fighting Daesh.
"The Turkish government has been involved in positive steps and gestures towards a peaceful solution. However, we have unfortunately observed that some have failed to take advantage of these opportunities and fallen prey to arrogance," Barzani said in his statement.
"I have sent letters upon letters to the PKK calling on them to act long term, because peace is a long process, and success takes a long time.
"My call on both sides is for them to sit at the negotiating table. The peace process needs to continue,” Barzani said.
Over the past week, Ankara has carried out a multi-faceted operation against groups, including Daesh, the PKK and some leftist organizations, in response to a string of attacks touched off by a suicide bombing that killed 32 people in southeastern Suruc district.
Since then, the PKK has killed a number of police officers in various cities. In response, Ankara's operation has seen Turkish jets conduct airstrikes on domestic and foreign targets, as well as large-scale detentions at home against the PKK and Daesh.
Turkey has been involved in a government initiative called the "solution process" to end the decades-old fighting with the PKK terrorist organization, a dispute which has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people over more than 30 years in Turkey.
The new wave of tension is feared to pose a severe blow to the process, and jeopardize a delicate cease-fire the PKK declared in 2013.
In Sunday's statement, Barzani praised the Turkish government's efforts to advance the process during the three-term single-party rule of the Justice and Development (AK) Party:
"The words 'Kurd' and 'Kurdistan' were prohibited under governments before the AK Party. All signs and symbols belonging to the Kurds were also included in the prohibitions. We have made every effort to start a peaceful process in Turkey. After long dialogues and negotiations, we have seen that compared to previous politicians, the AK Party and Mr. [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan have a different way of thinking and doing politics with regard to Kurds in Turkey.”
The Iraqi Kurdish leader said that making the PKK's jailed chief Abdullah Ocalan a main actor in the solution process yielded positive results, but that the PKK's actions threatened to sideline both Ocalan and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, which has 80 seats in the parliament.
Barzani said that in his meetings with the PKK leadership, he told them that "the death of two police officers would not destroy Turkey. Today, the greatest opportunity has arisen. Continue to strive using the ballot box, the pen, dialogue, politics and peaceful methods, because the great advances that can be made this way can never be made using weapons."
Barzani welcomed Ankara's military operation against Daesh -- which has been a fierce enemy to Kurdish forces in Syria -- in cooperation with an anti-Daesh coalition led by the US.
"The agreement between Turkey and the US in striking Daesh is an important step for us," he said. "This will have major consequences and impacts. Turkey's military involvement in this war that is carried out by a U.S.-led alliance will dramatically change the state of affairs."
Barzani also criticized the PKK for meddling in the affairs of the northern Iraq Kurdish administration, and of other regions where Kurds live. The group lets no one do politics in northern Syria, he said.
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