Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani is expected to pay a visit to Turkey early next week to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and discuss Mosul and Bashiqa, reports said yesterday. Commenting on the possible agenda during meetings with Barzani, experts said fighting against terrorist groups including the PKK and Daesh and Ankara's concerns about the PKK threat in Sinjar are expected to be on the table.
As part of the Munich Security Conference last week, Prime Minister Yıldırım first met with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and then unexpectedly met with President Barzani. While Turkey and the United States are attempting to jointly conduct an operation in Raqqa, Ankara is also leaning toward the idea that the "Peshmerga join the Raqqa operation instead of the PKK/PYD terror organization," sources reported.
Commenting on Barzani's visit, journalist Çetiner Çetin spoke to Daily Sabah on the possible agenda of Barzani's Ankara visit. He emphasized the PKK issue in the region will likely be on the table. Çetin indicated that two fundamental issues including the Sinjar and Raqqa operation are likely to be discussed. Regarding the Sinjar issue, Çetin stressed that Turkey has concerns as Sinjar has similarities to Qandil, which is the headquarters of the PKK terrorist group. "Sinjar is closer than Qandil to Turkey's borders, thus, it means a more threatening situation for Turkey," Çetin added.
Regarding Barzani's position fighting the PKK in the region, Çetin claimed: "Barzani could pursue a goal that there is no war between Kurdish people in the region, but, the PKK is pushing Barzani's limit. Despite the negative reactions, the PKK chose particularly controversial regions such as Kirkuk to control." Çetin also emphasized Iran's effect on the region, where it is trying to break down Barzani's power by creating a Shiite force through the PKK.
"In this context, since the bilateral strategic agreements in the areas of the military, security, and economy between the northern Iraq and Turkey stood for many years, Turkey does not want to break up this well-established relationship because of the PKK or Iran," Çetin added. Like Çetin, prominent expert Can Acun from the Foundation of Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) highlighted that Turkey and the KRG hold the same line regarding Iran's expansionist policies in Iraq, while stating that the PKK and Daesh will likely be on the possible agenda of the meeting.
Acun said Barzani is pursuing close ties with Turkey due to the Iran effect, and through the PKK would try to preserve his controlling power in the region. At the same time, the PKK's presence in Sinjar also threatens Turkey's national border security. Furthermore, "the visit may have an eco-political purpose. It is important that the KRG has started to transfer its energy sources through Turkey's territory to the world market. Additionally, counterterrorism is high-cost for the KRG, which increases the need for Turkey's support in combating terrorist groups in the region," Acun added.
Regarding the possible Raqqa operation against Daesh Çetiner said an arrangement to use the peshmerga forces in Raqqa could take a long time. Acun stated: "Barzani's military forces may be sent to Syria to fight against Daesh…In the Raqqa operation, if the U.S. and Turkey reach a consensus on the issue, the peshmerga could take a place in the operation." Çetiner also agreed on the idea that the presence of peshmerga forces in the Raqqa operation depends on negations both between Irbil and Ankara and between Ankara and Washington.
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