Turkey Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu visited Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani to discuss Turkey’s plan with the United States to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). The talks took place in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
“Turkey’s reason for this cooperation is to defeat ISIS and help Syrian refugees return to their homes, and also help deliver humanitarian assistance,” stated Sinirlioğlu. “Turkey values the Kurdistan region and considers it a factor for the stability and development of the region. We will continue developing our relations with Kurdistan region.”
The Turkish government hesitated the past year to join the fight against ISIS, even though they share a border with Syria. They sided with the rebels against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad when the civil war started four years ago. Media reports have on multiple occasions tied Turkey to the radical Islamic group.
But that all changed after a suicide bomber murdered 32 people and injured 100 in Suruç at “a cultural centre hosting anti-Islamic State activists.” Those at the event were about to head to Kobane, a strategic Kurdish town recently recaptured by Kurdish forces. Suruç is directly across the border from Kobane.
The government announced an airstrike campaign in Syria and gave America permission to use the Incirlik Air Base to strike ISIS in Syria. However, Turkey decided to also bomb the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), “a Marxist-Lenin terrorist group the Turkish government has vowed to eradicate along with ISIS.” While the Syrian Kurdish military allied itself with PKK, the Iraqi Kurds do not get along with PKK. The rivalry between PKK and Barzani’s Kudistan Democratic Party (KDP) traces back to the Iraqi Kurdish civil war in the 1990s.
Despite the attacks, Sinirlioğlu insisted violence is not part of the dialogue.
“Participation in the political process is open to everyone in Turkey, but that should be based on democratic principles and should be away from guns,” he said. “This principle is a must for the success of the reconciliation process. Turkey will stick to this principle.”
Barzani pushed Turkey and PKK to abandon violence and “return to dialogue.” He did agree with Sinirlioğlu that ISIS is a “global threat,” and everyone should participate to eradicate the poisonous terrorist group.
“The fight against ISIS must not only be on a military level, but must also include ideological and economic warfare,” said Barzani. “Turkey’s involvement in this war conducted by the U.S.-led alliance will dramatically change the state of affairs.”