Erdogan meets Barzani after Syrian Kurds autonomy call

Erdogan meets Barzani after Syrian Kurds autonomy call
Sat Nov 16, 2013 19:19:44

Turkey's prime minister has met with the leader of Iraq's autonomous north to his country's own Kurdish-dominated territory for the first time following a group of Kurd’s independence announcement in Syria.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan greeted Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani in the Kurds' heartland of Diyarbakir, southeast Turkey, on Saturday ahead of a series of joint engagements including officiating at a mass wedding.

The meeting comes after Turkish government expressed fury over Syria Kurds announcing autonomy, also strongly criticized by Barzani as “autocracy”.

Barzani has visited the capital of Ankara many times but Saturday's meeting was described by Erdogan as "historic" and a "crowning moment" in overcoming a decades-old conflict with the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Ankara hopes to use Barzani's influence as a respected figure among Turkey's Kurds to bring them back to the negotiating table.

"If Barzani has any importance in the eyes of our citizens, that importance will make its contribution," Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Friday.

Progress has stalled following a ceasefire called by jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in March.

His fighters suspended a promised withdrawal from Turkish soil in September, accusing Ankara of failing to keep to the terms of the bargain in giving greater rights.

The Turkish army reported on Friday that one of its convoys had been attacked, allegedly by PKK rebels, for the first time in months in southeastern Nusaybin district on the Syrian border.

Thousands of rebels remain holed up in the autonomous north of Iraq, an area under Barzani's control, using the region as a springboard for attacks on Turkish targets as part of their campaign for self-rule in southeastern Turkey.

But Barzani told AFP that Kurds should use non-violent means to gain the homeland they believe they deserve.

"Having our own state is the natural right of the Kurdish people, but that cannot be achieved through violence," he said.


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