Barzani says ready to negotiate between PKK and Turkey

The President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Masoud Barzani said on Tuesday that he is ready to play the role of a peace negotiator between the PKK and Turkey.

ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan (K24) - The President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Masoud Barzani said on Tuesday that he is ready to play the role of a peace negotiator between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Turkish government if need be.

At a press conference held with Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, President Barzani confirmed that the currently stalled PKK-Turkey peace talks would be an important issue on his upcoming visit Wednesday to Turkey in response to a question by a K24 reporter.

Barzani said that he deemed peace talks between the PKK and Turkey a "very important" goal. "If we [Kurdistan Region] know that there is a chance [for peace] we certainly are ready to play that role [of an arbitrator]," he added. President Barzani also stated, "we want the peace process to continue."

Barzani additionally said the Turkish role in the fight against the Islamic State group would be another issue to be discussed in his forthcoming meetings. He is expected to meet Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and the co-chair of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas in the Turkish capital of Ankara.

A two-year observed ceasefire between the PKK's armed wing, the People's Protection Forces (HPG) and the Turkish army ended last July when two Turkish police officers were killed in their homes by suspected PKK-affiliated urban militants in the Kurdish town of Serekani (Ceylanpinar) in Urfa Province along the Turkish-Syrian border.

In response to the killing of two police officers, the Turkish Air Force started heavily bombing PKK targets in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, notably the Qandil mountain range along the Iraq-Iran border. One of the Turkish air attacks early last August killed at least eight civilians, including a pregnant woman in the village of Zargala in Erbil Governorate.

At the time, President Barzani condemned the Turkish attack and called for restraint and dialogue between the PKK and the Turkish government in an official statement on the presidency website.

Last week a parliamentarian of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Galip Ensarioglu, claimed that Turkey was in talks with the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. However, this claim was strongly refuted by the deputy chairperson of the HDP parliamentary group, Idris Baluken.

The renewed cycle of violence meanwhile has led to clashes not only in rural and mountainous regions of Kurdish-majority provinces in Turkey but also in urban areas where Turkish authorities have imposed long curfews in numerous Kurdish towns. The curfews often result in dozens of civilian deaths, and disruption of basic services such as water, electricity, internet, phone lines, and ceased transportation of food and medicine.


(Aras Ahmad contributed to this report from Erbil)