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Turkey Cozies up to Iraqi Kurds as PKK Ends Ceasefire

The Turkish government is looking to increase its military cooperation with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, particularly in the fight against ISIS. The Turkish and Kurdish governments released a joint statement announcing their plans to work more closely together following the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) announcement of an end to a ceasefire against Turkey.

Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu visited the KRG in Erbil this week, meeting with Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani on Wednesday. Sinirlioğlu emphasized the need to work together with the KRG “in the fight against terror in the region.” The Islamic State (ISIS) has taken over large territories in northern Iraq, near the area where the KRG operates, particularly conquering the city of Mosul in 2014 and much of Nineveh and Sinjar following that development.

“The cooperation between Turkey and the KRG should be enhanced in every aspect. Cooperation is especially important to eradicate the roots of terror in the region,” he told reporters following the meeting.

Barzani echoed Sinirlioğlu’s sentiments against the Islamic State, thanking Turkey as well as Iran, the United States, and “European allies” for joining the fight against ISIS. “Without Turkey, Iran, European allies and on top of them the United States, victories against Daesh [ISIS] would not be possible,” he is quoted by Rudaw as stating.

“We are also resolved to further improve our economic cooperation in every way. This will bolster the unshakable foundation on which our partnership continues to thrive,” Sinirlioğlu added.

Barzani also addressed Turkey’s vocal concerns regarding ethnic Kurds calling for a sovereign nation for their people. While the KRG has maintained positive relations with Ankara, the Turkish government considers Kurdish populations ruled by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and PKK sympathizers to be “terrorists.” The PKK is also considered a Marxist terrorist group by the United States.

“If we want to obtain independence — which is a right — we are not going to do it through violence,” Barzani assured his Turkish counterpart.

The meeting between Turkish and Iraqi Kurdish officials was publicized at nearly the same time as a declaration by the PKK that they would no longer observe a unilateral ceasefire towards the Turkish government on Thursday. “The unilateral halt to hostilities has come to an end with the AKP [Justice and Development Party]’s war policy and the latest attacks,” a statement from the PKK read. “After the election, the AKP has demonstrated it is going to be a war government.”

 The PKK has called “on all the Kurdish people, the peoples of Turkey and democracy forces to step up their struggle.” In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed that Ankara will ensure that the PKK is “liquidated.” Erdogan had previously described the Turkish-PKK peace process as being “in the refrigerator.”
“There will be no break,” he said of the fight against the PKK on Wednesday. “We will keep on.”

The PKK has a fraught relationship with the KRG in Erbil. While they have been active against ISIS in northern Iraq, the KRG has repeatedly requested that the PKK leave the region and return to Syria and Turkey. Masoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan and uncle of Nechirvan Barzani, issued a statement in July condemning the PKK and praising the Turkish government for “tak[ing] positive steps” and “adopting a positive attitude for a peaceful resolution.” In the same statement, he accused the PKK of letting “pride” get in the way of peace.

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