Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed hope that an upcoming meeting with Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani in Diyarbakır over the weekend will be a historic occasion that crowns an ongoing resolution process in the country.
“We will experience a historic process in Diyarbakır this weekend,” Erdoğan told reporters yesterday in reference to the upcoming visit of the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Nov. 16.
The two leaders will attend a collective wedding ceremony where around 300 couples already living together will officially get married and will together open some facilities in Diyarbakır, which is the biggest province in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish-populated southeastern Anatolian region.
“We wanted to do it in a different way when having these 300 families married. Let it be a crowning for the resolution process where deputies of the province and the region and Mr. Barzani are invited, and where they will accede. We said let’s bring together two friends like İbrahim Tatlıses and Şivan Perwer,” Erdoğan said, referring to a joint concert from two famous Kurdish singers.
The resolution process, also dubbed as the peace process, refers to an ongoing government-led initiative aimed at ending the long-running Kurdish issue by ending the three-decade-old conflict between security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“At the same time, we will have political meetings with Mr. Barzani there,” he said.
Recalling that he, along with members of the Cabinet and deputies, will attend collective opening ceremonies in Diyarbakır’s Bismil and Ergani districts on Nov. 17, Erdoğan said: “All together, we will embrace the people of Diyarbakır in our province of Diyarbakır. All our wishes and desires concerning the resolution process are peace, solidarity and love among the region’s people.”
The prime minister also said bilateral relations between Turkey and the central government in Baghdad had recently entered a new phase with mutual visits like the latest one by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala.
Unlike the skeptical approach of opposition parties in Ankara, reports posted by the state-run Anadolu Agency from Diyarbakır reflected an excited mood in the city and heralded an enthusiastic welcome for both Erdoğan and Barzani.
Executives from leading business organizations such as the Diyarbakır Entrepreneurial Businessmen’s Association (DİGİAD), the Diyarbakir Union of Trades and Craftsmen Chambers (DESOB) and the Diyarbakır Organized Industry Businessman Association (DOSİAD) welcomed the visit, maintaining that it would both contribute to the peace process and improve commercial and economic relations between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Yet in Ankara, a considerable number of observers and opinion leaders suggested that the visit was a deliberate move mainly aimed at raising the popularity of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) vis-à-vis the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in the upcoming local elections in March 2014. The BDP shares similar grassroots with thePKK and it is no secret that the BDP and the KRG are divided on Syrian Kurds, who have just announced an interim administration that aims to carve out an autonomous Syrian Kurdish region.
For his part, main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Deputy Chair Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a Kurdish politician from the southeastern region, warned Barzani over his reputation.
“Mr. Barzani is a prestigious name of the 50-to-60-year-long political struggle among Kurds. He has earned this reputation from the struggle in his personal history. I hope that he takes care not to sacrifice this reputation of his to internal political strife, conflicts and fights in Turkey,” Tanrıkulu told reporters yesterday when asked to comment on the meeting between Erdoğan and Barzani in Diyarbakır.
According to Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) executives, including leader Devlet Bahçeli, the meeting is part of a secret separatist plan, endangering the unitary structure of Turkey.
BDP executives, meanwhile, took pains not to direct their criticism directly at Barzani. However, they did not hide their concern that the ruling party might be using him as a tool for electioneering.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurdish officials told Doğan News Agency that Barzani would also visitDiyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir of the BDP. Earlier, the co-chair of the Kurdish-umbrella organization Democratic Society Congress (DTK), Ahmet Türk, who is also an independent deputy, said Barzani should also visit Baydemir.
“Barzani should interpret the Kurdish people’s expectations correctly. Some people may have invited Barzani for the next elections. I hope that Mr. Barzani notices this,” Türk also said.