The good relations between Ankara and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are a ray of hope in a region that has been pushed into a chaos with ethnic, sectarian and ideological violence. This was once again manifested yesterday when Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu visited Irbil and met with the Barzanis.
The cooperation between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds should set an example to all the countries and groups in the region that friendly coexistence established by both sides should be the general way of life in the Middle East and not an exception.
Turkey has displayed its friendship to Iraqi Kurds at every possible opportunity since 2007. It has sided with Iraqi Kurds, allowing them to export their oil when the former central government in Baghdad tried to paralyze the KRG by stalling their monthly revenues from the state budget. Now that the KRG and the central government in Baghdad has managed to mend fences under Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who hosted Davutoğlu in Baghdad for a day before the scene is set for more and better ties.
Turkey has gone out of its way to help Sunni Arabs of Iraq to adopt a more moderate stance in Iraq. Yet the meaningless and cruel policies of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki not only alienated Kurds, but pushed Sunni Arabs into extremism and hence the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
Now, Davutoğlu has observed a much improved environment in Baghdad, which will hopefully help Iraq restore normalcy. The fact that Baghdad and the KRG have agreed on a deal for the exportation of oil extracted in Kurdish areas and that Baghdad has sent $500 million to the KRG from the state budget are all positive moves.
Turkey and the KRG have been natural allies for more than two decades. The peshmerga forces, which were allowed to pass through Turkey to help the besieged city of Kobani in Syria, are the same forces that fought shoulder to shoulder with Turkish soldiers against PKK militants. In the process, 3,000 peshmergas were killed and Iraqi Kurds have preferred not to publicize this fact.
On the other hand, Turkey has recently provided arms and other support to peshmerga forces and has also convinced the Americans to hit ISIS targets advancing on Irbil and Kirkuk. Turkey did not make this public out of concern for the 49 Turkish consulate hostages ISIS was holding at the time.
The cooperation between the sides is multifaceted and very fruitful. Turkey is helping Iraqi Kurds build their economy while the Masoud Barzani administration is helping out in the reconciliation process between the militant Kurds of Turkey and the Turkish government.
Not everything is a bed of roses, but in general terms, the relationship between Turkey and the KRG can be termed as a model for all others in the Middle East.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as prime minister, set the course for these relations and Davutoğlu is following in his footsteps. The decision taken to let the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan into Davutoğlu's delegation, both in Baghdad and Irbil, was the right move as the MİT has played a vital role in forging closer ties with Barzani and Turkey has seen its dividends in various ways including the release of the Turkish hostages held by ISIS.
Turkey's good ties with the KRG have had a positive impact on the normalization process in Baghdad and can also play a role in a viable solution to the Syrian question. It also helps to spread moderation in the region, which is a good antidote against the current extremism that is seen in our region.