Barzani refutes claims he met Ocalan in Ankara

he President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq Masoud Barzani refuted the claims Thursday that he met with the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in the Turkish capital of Ankara.

ANKARA, DIYARBAKIR (K24) - The President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq Masoud Barzani refuted the claims Thursday that he met with the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in the Turkish capital of Ankara during his official visit to Turkey.



At a Thursday press meeting in Ankara with members of Kurdish media, President Barzani stated on Kurdistan 24 live TV broadcast that no meeting took place with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan on the day before, Wednesday. A reporter asked Barzani whether the claims of some Kurdish and Turkish media outlets were true that a meeting with Ocalan was arranged at the headquarters of the Turkish Intelligence Organisation (MIT) in Ankara.

Ocalan remains jailed since 1999 in the island prison of Imrali in the inland Sea of Marmara in Northwestern Turkey.

In response to a question whether there was a chance to restart the collapsed peace talks between Turkey's government and PKK, Barzani said, "I wish they had continued the dialogue, Bakur [North Kurdistan] is passing through a difficult time." He went on to express his confidence in the renewal of dialogue, "but it will take time," he added.



Earlier Thursday a Diyarbakir-based journalist, Mahmut Bozarslan who works for VOA and Al Monitor told K24 TV that he was confident President Barzani and the PKK leader Ocalan met Wednesday.

No official statement has been made by both sides as to why President Barzani paid a visit to MIT, but various Turkish news websites, including Haberturk and Milliyet reported that Barzani met with the chief of the MIT, Hakan Fidan. However, K24 Ankara bureau chief could not confirm such reports.

Mahmut Bozarslan, who is Kurdish, refused to disclose his sources and claimed that apart from Barzani and Ocalan, three others were present at the alleged meeting. He added that the co-chairperson of the Turkish pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas was in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on Tuesday and that the HDP leader returned to the Turkish capital the same day as the alleged meeting. Bozarslan further claimed those who joined the meeting talked of restarting peace negotiations between the PKK and Turkey.



Meanwhile, HDP co-chair Figen Yuksekdag, members of parliament Osman Baydemir, Leyla Zana, Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat, and the Mayor of Mardin province, Ahmet Turk met in Ankara with President Masoud Barzani and his accompanying delegation.

Chief of Staff to President Barzani, Fuad Hussein, told K24 that the main topic at the meeting with top HDP politicians was the stalled peace process. Hussein added that the HDP delegation asked Barzani to help find "a lasting peace in Turkey and North Kurdistan."

Earlier this week, President Barzani said that he deemed dialogue between the PKK and Turkey "very important" and expressed his readiness to negotiate between the two sides. Earlier this month, a parliamentarian of the ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party Galip Ensarioglu claimed that the Turkish State was in talks with Ocalan.

PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and President Barzani exchanged letters via HDP MPs Leyla Zana and Sırrı Sureyya Onder numerous times since 2013 until early earlier this year when PKK - Turkey peace negotiations stalled.
Barzani's unprecedented visit to the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir, Turkey in November 2013 and his meeting with then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and prominent Turkish-Kurdish politicians raised hopes that the then ongoing PKK - Turkey peace talks were close to an agreement.

(Kamaran Haji Omar, Nevin Diri, Osman Mehmed reported from Ankara. Hesen Kako contributed to this report from Diyarbakir)