KRG's Barzani in Ankara, calls on terrorist PKK to lay down arms

Turkish President Abdullah Gül (L) and Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani shake hands before their meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara on April 20, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

April 20, 2012, Friday/ 11:44:00

The terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) should lay down its weapons for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani said on Friday during an official visit to Turkey.

“You won't get anywhere with weapons. The PKK should lay down its arms,” Barzani told reporters in Ankara on Friday on the last day of his two-day visit to Turkey. “I will not let the PKK prevail in northern Iraq,” he said, noting that the Kurdish issue can only be solved through peaceful means. "If the PKK goes ahead with weapons, it will bear the consequences," he added. Stating that an armed struggle would prevent a solution of the Kurdish issue, Barzani said he is optimistic about Turkey's recent policies and initiatives on the Kurdish issue, referring to the Turkish government's Kurdish initiative launched in 2009 to address the issue through peaceful methods.

“We will go ahead with our efforts for a peaceful solution. We want to make every kind of contribution for a solution to the issue through peaceful methods,” Barzani said. Barzani’s remarks came minutes after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters in Doha that the Turkish military would “completely” halt military operations against the PKK if the organization were to lay down its arms.

“The separatist terrorist organization should lay down its arms. This is our call. The stance of the Turkish state is clear once they lay down their arms. It is [our stance] to completely stop military operations. But it is out of the question for operations to end unless the organization lays down its arms,” Erdoğan said on Friday while responding to questions from reporters in Doha.

When asked whether he discussed the issue with Barzani during a meeting on Thursday, the Turkish prime minister said although they did not discuss it, he did say the issue of the PKK laying down its arms is always on Turkey’s agenda in talks with northern Iraq’s regional administration.

Barzani arrived in Turkey for a two-day visit on Thursday and met with Erdoğan in İstanbul on the same day. He also had talks with President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Friday.

The fight against the PKK was also among the issues discussed during Barzani and Davutoğlu’s meeting. According to Foreign Ministry sources, a more effective strategy against the PKK and economic cooperation were also discussed during the meeting. In addition, the two sides reportedly agreed to continue consultation on various issues, particularly the fight against terrorism.

Barzani also met with pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Co-Chairman Selahattin Demirtaş, who was accompanied by BDP Co-Chairwoman Gültan Kışanak and Mardin deputy Ahmet Türk, on Friday afternoon. Demirtaş told reporters after the meeting that they did not have a “special agenda” but just had lunch with the Iraqi Kurdish leader.

Turkey has been fighting the PKK since 1984 and as many as 40,000 people have died since. Turkey has demanded active support from the Kurdish regional administration in the fight against the terrorist organization, which has several bases in northern Iraq, including its main base in the Kandil Mountains.

Iraqi Kurds have had strained relations with Turkey in the past due to the presence of the PKK in Kurdish-run northern Iraq, but ties have improved significantly in recent years. The Kurds are also striving to maintain balanced ties with Iraq’s rival Sunni and Shiite groups as they vie for influence in the country following the withdrawal of US troops.

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