ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yildiz met with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Saturday to discuss a range of issues from economic development to military activities at the region’s northern border.
“Ambassador Yildiz conveyed his government’s congratulations to the Prime Minister on his appointment,” a statement from Barzani’s office read.
On Wednesday, the Kurdistan Parliament confirmed Barzani as the new Prime Minister of the autonomous Kurdistan Region along with his government cabinet by a majority vote.
The Turkish diplomat “expressed hope that the new government leads to a positive new chapter for the peoples of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq and strengthens bilateral relations between Turkey and the Kurdistan Region and Iraq as a whole.”
Strengthening the region’s economy and potentials for increased trade was another topic of discussion between the two sides. Turkey has a large business presence in the country and exports many goods while it imports substantial amounts of oil from Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
PM Barzani “outlined his plans to deepen bilateral relations, especially in the economic and investment sectors,” the statement continued. The recently inaugurated leader “also stressed the need to diversify the economy, by developing the fields of agriculture, industry, and tourism, in particular.”
A diverse economy, Barzani explained during the meeting, “would help ensure that the Kurdistan Region is not dependent on revenue from oil and gas alone.” He welcomed Turkey’s engagement in this important area.
He also “called for improved travel links between Turkey and the Kurdistan Region, and urged Ambassador Yildiz to help address recent reports of travel difficulties.”
Over the past few years, Turkey has carried out military operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters based within the Kurdistan Region with continued regularity. Turkish forces have crossed into the region up to 30 kilometers deep in some areas to target the group.
Such attacks have led to the evacuation of many villagers from the Kurdistan Region as Ankara’s warplanes continue to damage residential and agricultural lands, and, on occasion, kill civilian bystanders about whom there are no claims of PKK affiliation.
The PKK has been engaged in a decades-long insurgency against Turkey over Kurdish rights and self-rule since the early 1980s in a conflict that has resulted in the death of over 40,000 people on both sides. Turkey, the European Union, and the United States have designated it a "terrorist organization."
Aggrieved locals have long urged both sides to take their conflict elsewhere.
In meeting with Yildiz, PM Barzani “raised concerns about victims caught in the crossfire of armed clashes in the border regions,” and “called for all sides to respect the territorial integrity of the Kurdistan Region.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany