ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - A top advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised the newly-inaugurated Iraqi president, Barham Salih, in a newspaper opinion piece on Friday.
Ilnur Cevik said President Barham Salih would be a “good ally” to Turkey, just a day after Erdogan himself congratulated the Kurdish politician.
Cevik wrote in Turkey’s pro-government outlet Daily Sabah that “Dr. Barham also has to cope with the adverse effects of the ill-fated independence referendum of September 2017 ordered by Barzani,” referring to Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani.
“It is clear that one of the reasons why the Shiite Arab majority in the Iraqi Parliament voted against Barzani's presidential candidate on Oct. 2 was as an act of revenge for the independence referendum,” he said.
Relations between the two parties remain tense after the KDP accused the PUK of withdrawing from a previous agreement on the presidency. The PUK has denied there was such a deal.
“Dr. Barham has the qualities of Mam Jalal to cope with the intricate political game in Baghdad and has the ability to get the Sunni Arabs on board, while appeasing the Arab Shiites,” Cevik said. “Mam Jalal” was how former Iraqi president Jalal Talabani was known to many.
Talibani served as president from 2006 to 2014, then died in a German hospital one year ago at the age of 84.
“Since Mam Jalal's departure from Baghdad after a bout of illness, Baghdad politics has been left without the golden touch of Mam Jalal, who mediated between the antagonistic sides and came up with solutions. Dr. Barham has those qualities,” he added.
Furthermore, Cevik concluded that “Dr. Barham has always appreciated the importance of Turkey and has cherished the friendship of Ankara. Now we have a good ally in Baghdad just like Mam Jalal.”
Relations between Turkey and the PUK, which Dr. Salih rejoined after leaving his Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ), also remain tense.
When Salih was still the head of the CDJ, he congratulated Erdogan on winning the majority of the presidential vote in Turkey’s June snap elections, saying he hoped a stalled peace process between Turkey and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) would reactivate.
Turkish officials have accused the PUK of aiding the Kurdish guerrilla group headquartered in mountainous areas in the Kurdistan Region.
At the end of a six-month Baghdad-imposed international flight ban on the Kurdistan Region in March, Turkey resumed air travel to Erbil, but did not do so for Sulaimani, where the PUK is politically dominant. Still appearing angered by the PKK’s detention of two officials from Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) in Sulaimani in 2017, Ankara again extended the ban in September.
Turkey had earlier shut down the PUK’s office in Ankara directly following the incident and the party’s envoy warned its leadership of perceived ties with the PKK.
KDP official Janghis Awakaly told Kurdistan 24 that he thought the article expressed the advisor's individual musings and not official Turkish policy.
"Our position is very clear. We deal and talk with officials and through official channels," he said. "Someone just wrote this article to get attention, by attacking, Barzani, KDP and Kurdistan, just because KDP and Barzani are leading the struggle for Kurdish rights."
"We will not be discouraged by someone's personal opinion," he concluded.
Editing by John J. Catherine