Former Turkish PM calls Iraqi, Syrian Kurds 'brothers' in visit to Diyarbakir

Ahmet Davutoglu is a politician and academic known for his ardent Islamist-Ottomanist views regarding the Middle East and the Balkans.

DIYARBAKIR (Kurdistan 24) - Former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir on Monday in an apparent attempt to reach out to the alienated voter base of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) amid months-old claims that he has been preparing to break ranks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Davutoglu attended a dinner event in the city's ancient Sur district, where the majority of residential and historical buildings were destroyed during a 2015-2016 phase of a government offensive under his watch that targeted youth affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) after peace talks between the two collapsed.

Speaking to the media from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Davutoglu seemed to repeat earlier statements he made regarding Ankara's policies towards the Kurds while he held the premiership before Erdogan forced him out in what many in the opposition viewed as an intra-party coup against an elected PM.

"We share a common fate with our Kurdish brothers in Syria and Iraq. If they are in hardship, the only place where they can seek refuge is Turkey. For us, in Turkey, those places are an extension of our homeland," said Davutoglu, a former academic known for his Islamist-Ottomanist views advocating an expansionist foreign policy in the Middle East and the Balkans.

Ankara has firmly and consistently opposed any move by the Kurds in Syria and Iraq towards greater autonomy or independence for fear of similar demands being made by its own millions-strong Kurdish population.

"Some powers are trying to create a barrier between our Kurdish brothers across the border and us," the former Turkish PM said, without elaboration. The US and other Western countries actively backed the Kurdistan Region and Syrian Kurdish forces in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group, thus empowering them in terms of territory and military power.

He went on to call the US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces "terrorist PKK" and claimed they "are the barrier between" the Kurds and Turkey.

"A day will come when those barriers are lifted. But our ties with our Kurdish brothers will remain," he said.

Davutoglu reminded those present that, when he visited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the onset of a then civilian uprising against the Damascus government, he told Assad to grant citizenship to hundreds of thousands of stateless Kurds in the country.

Earlier when he gave a speech to scores of attendees at the dinner, Davutoglu counted cities from as far away as Balkh in Afghanistan, Samarkand in Uzbekistan, Baku in the Caucasus, Srebrenica in Bosnia, and Skopje in Macedonia as part of his vision, along with Medina and Mecca, the birthplaces of Islam.

"We approached Syria with the same foreign policy view," Davutoglu said, regarding the neighboring country devastated by a civil war whose rebel side Ankara has been arming and training since its beginning almost eight years ago. 

Editing by John J. Catherine

(Hasan Kako contributed to this report.)