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الثلاثاء 04/08/2009
1. Democracy could end Kurdish rebel campaign against Turkey: Massoud Barzani
2. Turkey seeks "democratic path" to end Kurd conflict
3. Turkish journalists call on gov’t to listen to jailed PKK leader
4. Newsweek interview with President Barzani
5. Iraqi PM and Kurdish leaders reopen dialogue over land, oil
6. Iraqi PM & Kurd President Agree to Solve Problems
7. Steadfastness urged in Kurdish process
8. Efforts underway between KRG and Iran Consulate to release three American hikers arrested in Iran
9. U.S. seeks hikers' release in Iran
10. Elections bring ‘change’ to Kurdistan but to what result?
11. Iraqi Kurds seek mutual dependence, not annexation, with Turkey
12. Turkey working on bid to solve Kurdish problem, PM says
=========
1. Democracy could end Kurdish rebel campaign against Turkey: Massoud Barzani

01 August 2009
AFP

ANKARA, — Kurdish rebels fighting Turkey will lose popular support and be forced to lay down arms if Ankara broadens the democratic rights of its Kurdish community, Iraqi Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani said in comments published Saturday.

"Everybody knows that this problem cannot be solved through war and violence...More blood will be shed if military options are used as the sole means of finding a solution," Barzani said in an interview with Turkey's mass-circulation Sabah newspaper.

Ankara's plans of introducing reforms to boost the rights and freedoms of its Kurds could be key to ending the 25-year conflict with the outlawed Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Barzani said.

Turkey's initiative could open the way for a solution," Barzani said. "Once the problem moves toward a solution, the PKK will have to lay down arms. It will not be able to pursue an armed struggle. The public will not support it."

The Kurdish leader added that he was ready to assist Turkey in its efforts to end the violence, saying that the PKK was a threat to regional security.

Thousands of PKK rebels are holed up in the autonomous north of Iraq, which is under Barzani's control, using the region as a springboard for attacks on Turkish targets as part of their campaign for self-rule in southeastern Turkey.

Over 44,000 Turkish soldiers and Kurdish PKK guerrillas have been killed since 1984 when the Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) took up arms for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey (Turkey-Kurdistan). A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels. Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority.

The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds' identity in its constitution and of their language as a native language along with Turkish in the country's Kurdish areas,www.ekurd.net the party also demanded an end to ethnic discrimination in Turkish laws and constitution against Kurds, ranting them full political freedoms.

The PKK is considered a 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union,www.ekurd.net but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

Ankara had often accused the Iraqi Kurds of tolerating and even aiding the rebels, but in a major policy shift last year, it said it would seek to resolve the issue through cooperation with Baghdad and Iraq's Kurds.

The Turkish government's planned "democracy package" coincides with a peace plan that jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan is expected to announce on August 15.

Last month, the PKK announced that it had extended a unilateral truce by six weeks until September 1 in anticipation of its leader's proposals and to help settle the conflict. Ankara rejects dialogue with the PKK, which it lists as a terrorist organisation, and has never formally recognised any of the rebel truces.

In a bid to improve its chances of winning membership of the European Union,www.ekurd.net Ankara has in recent years introduced a range of cultural rights for Kurds, but it has come under fire for failing to draw up a clear strategy to encourage the PKK to abandon its armed struggle.

Copyright, respective author or news agency, AFP | Agencies

** Kurds are not recognized as an official minority in Turkey and are denied rights granted to other minority groups. Under EU pressure, Turkey recently granted Kurds limited rights for broadcasts and education in the Kurdish language, but critics say the measures do not go far enough.

The use of the term "Kurdistan" is vigorously rejected due to its alleged political implications by the Republic of Turkey, which does not recognize the existence of a "Turkish Kurdistan" Southeast Turkey.

Others estimate over 40 million Kurds live in Big Kurdistan (Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Armenia), which covers an area as big as France, about half of all Kurds which estimate to 25 million live in Turkey. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK for a Kurdish homeland in the country's mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey.

Before August 2002, the Turkish government placed severe restrictions on the use of Kurdish language, prohibiting the language in education and broadcast media. The Kurdish alphabet is still not recognized in Turkey, and use of the Kurdish letters X, W, Q which do not exist in the Turkish alphabet has led to judicial persecution in 2000 and 2003

The Kurdish flag flown officially in Iraqi Kurdistan but unofficially flown by Kurds in Armenia. The flag is banned in Iran, Syria, and Turkey where flying it is a criminal offence"
=========
2. Turkey seeks "democratic path" to end Kurd conflict

August 3, 2009
Reuters

ISTANBUL, — Turkey's government pledged to follow a "democratic path" and build public consensus to end a 25-year Kurdish insurgency at a rare meeting the Interior Ministry held with journalists, newspapers said on Sunday.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government said last week it will grant more rights to the nation's estimated 12 million Kurds and reach out to opposition parties and other groups to devise a "Turkish model" to resolve the conflict with the Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

But the government has not provided a timeframe and has offered few details on its plan to convince the PKK to lay down its arms in a conflict that has frustrated its efforts to meet the European Union's human-rights criteria for membership.

Turkey still rules out direct negotiations or a full amnesty for the PKK.

Over 44,000 Turkish soldiers and Kurdish PKK guerrillas have been killed since 1984 when the Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) took up arms for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey (Turkey-Kurdistan). A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels. Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority.

The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds' identity in its constitution and of their language as a native language along with Turkish in the country's Kurdish areas,www.ekurd.net the party also demanded an end to ethnic discrimination in Turkish laws and constitution against Kurds, ranting them full political freedoms.

The PKK is considered a 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union,www.ekurd.net but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

Interior Minister Besir Atalay met with 15 prominent newspaper columnists for five hours on Saturday to solicit their opinions on resolving the conflict.

"It was expressed that Turkey's fundamental problems will be resolved on a democratic path ... and political will and social consensus are important," said a statement after the meeting.

PROPOSALS AT MEETING

Proposals at the meeting with Atalay included establishing a dialogue with Kurdish intellectuals and activists to convince the PKK to leave the mountains of northern Iraq,www.ekurd.net where it is based, to return to Turkey, Hasan Cemal wrote in Milliyet daily.

Officials signalled the government would take concrete action within "a few months", said Cengiz Candar of Radikal newspaper, who also attended the meeting.

The PKK has said it wants an unconditional amnesty for high-ranking rebels before surrendering its weapons.
Abdullah Ocalan , the PKK's imprisoned leader, will release a "road map" by Aug. 15, the 25th anniversary of the start of the uprising, to end the conflict, his lawyers said this month.

Violence has fallen off since Ocalan was convicted of treason in 1999, but the rebels still launch sporadic attacks on military targets and Turkish warplanes have regularly bombarded PKK bases in northern Iraq over the last two years.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Republican People's Party has drawn up proposals including a full or partial amnesty for PKK fighters, constitutional reform on citizenship, Kurdish-language instruction at schools and autonomy for provincial governments in the largely Kurdish southeast, Vatan newspaper reported.

Copyright, respective author or news agency, Reuters | Agencies

** Kurds are not recognized as an official minority in Turkey and are denied rights granted to other minority groups. Under EU pressure, Turkey recently granted Kurds limited rights for broadcasts and education in the Kurdish language, but critics say the measures do not go far enough.

The use of the term "Kurdistan" is vigorously rejected due to its alleged political implications by the Republic of Turkey, which does not recognize the existence of a "Turkish Kurdistan" Southeast Turkey.

Others estimate over 40 million Kurds live in Big Kurdistan (Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Armenia), which covers an area as big as France, about half of all Kurds which estimate to 25 million live in Turkey. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK for a Kurdish homeland in the country's mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey.

Before August 2002, the Turkish government placed severe restrictions on the use of Kurdish language, prohibiting the language in education and broadcast media. The Kurdish alphabet is still not recognized in Turkey, and use of the Kurdish letters X, W, Q which do not exist in the Turkish alphabet has led to judicial persecution in 2000 and 2003

The Kurdish flag flown officially in Iraqi Kurdistan but unofficially flown by Kurds in Armenia. The flag is banned in Iran, Syria, and Turkey where flying it is a criminal offence"
===========
3. Turkish journalists call on gov’t to listen to jailed PKK leader

Sunday, August 2, 2009
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

The Police Academy hosts the first workshop held on the Kurdish problem after the government announces its initiative.
Journalists who were asked to voice their opinions about how to tackle the Kurdish problem told the government to listen to what the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, had to say.
At a workshop held by the Police Academy in Ankara on Saturday, Police Academy President Zühtü Arslan and Police Academy Research Centers President İhsan Bal, with Interior Minister Beşir Atalay in attendance, listened as prominent columnists from Turkey’s major dailies let loose with their many ideas and opinions.
Atalay, in a press conference on July 29, said the government was working on a comprehensive package to resolve the grievances of Kurds in Turkey, with the motto being more democracy. The interior minister said the government intended to include all sections of the society in drawing up the package.
Meanwhile, PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is expected to release his own set of proposals on Aug. 15, which the government has already said it will ignore.
At the workshop on Saturday, seen as the first in a series of similar meetings, Atalay listened to the advice of columnists working for dailies. Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review’s Cengiz Çandar was among those attending the workshop that was closed to the public. Other’s included Oral Çalışlar, Cengiz Çandar, Mustafa Karaalioğlu, Nasuhi Güngör, Deniz Ülke Arıboğan, Muharrem Sarıkaya, Hasan Cemal, Okan Müderrisoğlu, İbrahim Kalın, Mithat Sancar, Ruşen Çakır, Fehmi Koru, Ali Bayramoğlu, Mümtaz’er Türköne and İhsan Dağı.
According to daily Radikal, columnists advised the government not to be deaf to what Öcalan had to say. Parliament has to have the last say on how to tackle the matter, columnists said, who also criticized the far-right Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, for not being open to solutions to the problem.
Cemal, who went to northern Iraq and interviewed PKK leader Murat Karayılan, is said to have shared his impressions with the minister.
It was said that Atalay and police officers attending the workshop did not talk but took notes on what was said.
Police Academy President Arslan, speaking after the meeting, said similar workshops would be held in the future.
No columnist was present from the Daily News’ parent company Doğan Media Group’s flagship brand daily Hürriyet or daily Cumhuriyet.
CHP critical of workshop:
The main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, was critical of the workshop on Sunday, with party spokesman Mustafa Özyürek arguing that only columnists who had voiced similar opinions to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, were invited.
Özyürek, speaking to Anatolia news agency, said this contradicted Atalay’s statement that the government would be inclusive in tackling the matter.
“There are many journalists who sincerely seek a solution to the Kurdish problem without supporting the government’s stance. It is interesting that none of them were invited,” he said.
He said the government began its initiative wrongly and that he hoped it would be open to alternative opinions in the future.
Özyürek dismissed reports that the CHP was preparing its own Kurdish package, adding that the CHP was still waiting for the government to present a package that included a concrete set of ideas.
=========
4. Newsweek interview with President Barzani

By Larry Kaplow
Newsweek.com,
03 Aug. 2009
From the magazine issue dated 17 August

Iraq's Kurds have been enthusiastic US allies since before the 2003 invasion. But as the Kurds have expanded their control over their oil-rich territory - and as they reassert claims to the contested city of Kirkuk ahead of a constitutionally mandated referendum - tensions are mounting with the central government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and with Arabs and other ethnic groups. Last week, Massoud Barzani was reelected president of the Kurdistan Regional Government despite a strong opposition showing. Days later, he sat down with Newsweek's Larry Kaplow in his mountain complex high above the Kurdish city of Erbil. Excerpts:

How should people interpret the election?

This was a success for the people of the Kurdistan region. In the past, our people were subject to annihilation. Now we have reached a stage where they can vote freely for whomever they want.

How should we view the emergence of a new opposition?

I welcome it. I see having an opposition as a healthy phenomenon.

What do you say to charges that there is too much corruption, not enough democracy?

We will immediately constitute a public integrity or anticorruption commission. Whoever has any complaint, any evidence, they are welcome to come forward.

For the first time in many months, you and Prime Minister Maliki spoke yesterday. is your relationship improving?

Prime Minister Maliki called and congratulated me. This was a good initiative, and we believe it will help break the ice.

You have made some tough statements lately about how bad relations are with Baghdad.

There has been misinterpretation of what I said. In fact, my position has been the same from day one. I did not ask for anything else for my people beyond what the Constitution entitles us to. I have always stated that I will defend the rights of our people, and the only weapon in my hand will be the Constitution.

How concerned are you about the U.S. withdrawal?

Within the time that's left, we all have to sort out Iraq's problems. The important thing here is the political [will] of the United States and not the number of troops left on the ground. Will the United States leave Iraq and allow the situation to collapse, or will they withdraw in a way that leaves stability?

Has there been improvement in relations with Turkey, seen as an adversary to Kurdish ambitions?

There has been remarkable progress. We welcome it and we will try to make sure that this progress is sustained.

What about your commitment not to let the kurdistan workers' party (PKK) stage attacks on turkey from Iraqi Kurdistan?

We have not allowed the PKK to launch attacks from here. There has been some exaggeration of the PKK presence. This is a tough mountain area at the border of Iran, Iraq, and Turkey that is difficult for any force to control.

Could Turkey end up being an ally if the U.S. withdrawal goes badly?

Turkey can play a positive role in all of Iraq. If they're ready to play that kind of role we are ready. But we can't accept interference in our internal affairs.

The United Nations wants a negotiated settlement for who controls Kirkuk. Do you endorse that process?

My answer is very short. Kirkuk and other disputed territories have been covered by a constitutional article that stipulates the road map to solve them. Any other alternative will complicate that issue.

What if you are alone on this and others don't accept it?
Then the rights of the Kurdish people would have been usurped and we have the right to defend [ourselves] with the means that are at our disposal.

But if you're talking about war, you'll be outnumbered.

A larger number does not mean that they will always win. Only at the ballot box is it the [rule] that the majority wins.
=========
5. Iraqi PM and Kurdish leaders reopen dialogue over land, oil

Aug 2, 2009
AFP
DUKAN, Iraq,

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and leaders of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region reopened dialogue on Sunday after a long and bitter standoff over land and oil.
Both sides were upbeat after the talks between Maliki, regional president Massud Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, which come amid US pressure for the central government and Kurdish authorities to settle their differences before American troops pull out in 2011.
Maliki arrived early Sunday in Kurdistan's second city Sulaimaniyah, his first trip to the region since June 2007, for the talks in the summer resort town of Dukan, 75 kilometres (50 miles) to the northwest.
He told reporters afterwards he was "satisfied with this meeting, and
we agreed that these meetings should continue at the leadership level" and below.
He said as part of the process of trying to resolve points of dispute, a team comprising Iraqi and Kurdish officials would set up shop in Kurdistan while a Kurdish delegation would visit Baghdad. He gave no further details.
"An appointed team will start tonight to discuss the political and strategic conflicts," the Iraqi premier told reporters at a joint press conference with Barzani and Talabani, who is Kurdish.
He added: "A delegation from Kurdistan will come to Baghdad, and I hope that (regional prime minister Nechirvan) Barzani will be among the delegation, in order to discuss unfinished issues and resolve the problems."
Kurdish demands to expand their region in northern Iraq to include the oil-rich ethnically mixed province of Kirkuk and other areas along Kurdistan's border with the rest of Iraq have triggered an increasingly heated war of words with Maliki's Shiite-led central government.
Barzani insisted in campaigning ahead of last month's regional parliamentary and presidential elections that he would not "compromise" on the Kurds' long-standing claims to Kirkuk.
But on Sunday he said he was "flexible" and that he and Maliki had "agreed to resolve the problems between us."
He described the meeting with Maliki as "very successful."
On a visit to Iraq last week, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates urged Arab and Kurdish leaders to settle their political differences before American troops leave the country.
Under a security accord signed between Baghdad and Washington in November, US forces are due to withdraw by the end of 2011.
The US military is closely monitoring the situation and has set up liaison offices with commanders of Kurdish militia and Baghdad government forces to try to prevent tensions from escalating, said the top American commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno.
Maliki will also be seeking to shore up support from Kurdish parties in the run-up to next year's election, as his own grouping is unlikely to be able to win enough seats on its own to secure a majority in parliament.
Kurdish leaders, meanwhile, are likely to be keen to court allies in Baghdad as the United States -- a close ally of Arbil -- reduces its military presence in Iraq.
Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have for decades dominated politics in Kurdistan, and their joint list secured 57 percent of the vote in the parliamentary poll.
But their stranglehold over the region was challenged in the election, as two smaller groups fared better than expected and look set to form the region's first credible opposition in parliament.

===========
6. Iraqi PM & Kurd President Agree to Solve Problems

08/03/2009 05:02

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Kurdish regional president Masoud Barzani held a rare meeting on Sunday but agreed only to further talks to solve a row over land and oil seen as the greatest threat to Iraqi security. The encounter was believed to be the first between them for many months, during which time Barzani has accused Maliki of acting like a tyrant and sidelining Iraq's Kurdish minority, Reuters India reports.
The leaders agreed to establish a committee to solve the outstanding issues.
"The challenges that face the political process require more meetings and cooperation between all Iraqi people," al-Maliki said Sunday at a press conference with Barzani and Talabani. "I am very optimistic after this meeting," The Associated Press reports.
"Our meeting was positive and we have agreed to support the national unity and the federal system. We also agreed on the necessity of finding a mechanism to continue discussions to solve the pending problems between the region and Baghdad," Maliki added, Xinhua reports.
Meanwhile, Barzani said a Kurdish delegation would visit Baghdad "to solve all the problems." Sunday's talks were held in a resort town just outside Sulaymaniyah, the Kurdish region's second-largest city,
The Washington Post reports
========
7. Steadfastness urged in Kurdish process

31 July 2009
TODAY'S ZAMAN ANKARA

Amid renewed talks of a solution to the decades-long Kurdish problem in the Turkish capital, observers have expressed their concern over possible incidents that might outrage the public and may eventually derail the ongoing process.
They have asked for steadfastness on the part of the government and patience from the public to maintain the drive to look for solutions to the issue.
Among the possible scenarios that were cited by various analysts were the possible bloodshed in major city centers in Turkey which could be attributed to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) or the killing of Turkish soldiers in the southeastern part of the country, leading to a major offensive by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), possibly including a cross-border operation stretching to northern Iraq.
Observers have even raised the possibility that rogue elements embedded deep within the state may plan violent acts to assign the blame to Kurds or the military, in the hopes of inflaming public furor over the bloodshed and to pit different segments of society against each other.
The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party's (DTP) deputy Hasip Kaplan urges the government to act rapidly on a recently announced government plan which pinpoints further democratization and a broadening of rights as major pillars of the solution package. “I think the government should immediately take steps to implement these decisions,” he told Today's Zaman, warning that gangs and illegal organizations will do everything in their power to halt the process.
Kaplan also asked the media and civic organizations to act responsibly in the face of provocative acts instigated by these gangs to derail process. “They [the publishers and community leaders] have a responsibility to maintain common sense among the public and should pressure the government to find real perpetrators” he noted.
The DTP deputy further asked the military to refrain from major offensives in predominantly Kurdish populated regions out of fear that clashes and funerals serve to inflame public emotions and hurt the solution-finding process. “If there is a real consensus among the state branches, including the military, in finding a solution to Kurdish problem, security agencies, both the police and the military, should avoid engaging in offensives,” he underlined. Interior Minister Beşir Atalay on Wednesday confirmed that the government is working on a comprehensive solution package to end the long-running Kurdish problem; however, he declined to go into details of the plan. He said, “Turkey will implement Kurdish policies based on a model unique to the country's own history and current conditions.”
A major point in Atalay's speech was his emphasis on further democratization and a broadening of rights. “The government will continue to take determined and courageous steps to solve the Kurdish problem, which has cost Turkey dearly on many fronts,” he said. As part of the recent initiatives, sources say PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may eventually agree to meet with the DTP leader and the party's deputies. Erdoğan has so far refused to meet with DTP leader Ahmet Türk on the grounds that the DTP refuses to distance itself from the PKK or openly denounce PKK violence.
The last scheduled appointment between Türk and Erdoğan on May 29 was cancelled after a land mine planted by the PKK killed six soldiers. Erdoğan said whenever he tried to meet with DTP deputies, the PKK staged attacks. “The minute you decide to take a step, bombs explode,” said Erdoğan in June. Türk has been requesting a meeting with the prime minister since the July 22 general elections in 2007.
============
8. Efforts underway between KRG and Iran Consulate to release three American hikers arrested in Iran

PUKmedia
02-08-2009

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officially start holding talks with the Consulate of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Erbil to release the three American hikers that were arrested by the Iranian forces on July 31, 2009 after they crossed the border from the Kurdistan region.

Reported by: Dilshad Ahmed (PUKmedia-Kurdish version)
=========
9. U.S. seeks hikers' release in Iran

By SAM DAGHER
NEW YORK TIMES
08/02/2009

BAGHDAD — Efforts were under way on Saturday to secure the release of three American hikers who were arrested by Iranian authorities after they crossed Iran's border from the Kurdistan region of Iraq, a top Kurdish official said.

Iranian state television confirmed Saturday that the Americans had been detained Friday after crossing the border from northern Iraq.

A State Department spokesman, Robert A. Wood, said that the United States had seen the Iranian reports and asked Switzerland, which represents American interests in Iran, to confirm them with Iranian authorities and provide consular access to the Americans if the reports were true.

The Kurdish official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Americans had crossed into Iran "knowingly or unknowingly" before they were arrested.

The official said that they were part of a group of four Americans who entered Kurdistan on Wednesday by land from Turkey and spent the night in Sulaimaniya.

On Thursday, three of them, two men and a woman, headed to the resort area of Ahmed Awa, southeast of Sulaimaniya. The fourth American stayed behind because he was sick.

The three travelers hiked an area along the Iranian border near the Kurdish villages of Biyara and Tawila, and spent Thursday night camped out at the border, the Kurdish official said.

On Friday morning, the official said, they "trekked into Iranian territory, knowingly or unknowingly, and found themselves detained by the Iranians."

Kurdish security forces found tents, blankets, food, notebooks and a bottle of whiskey among the belongings the group left behind at the campsite.

The fourth hiker who had stayed behind was handed over to American Embassy officials in Baghdad, the Kurdish official said.

The porous and mountainous border area between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran, a popular resort and hiking area, is also used by smugglers and Iranian Kurdish guerrillas opposed to Iran's government.
============
10. Elections bring ‘change’ to Kurdistan but to what result?

Henri Barkey
Last Updated: July 29. 2009 12:36AM UAE / July 28. 2009 8:36PM GMT
The National

The success of Gorran, or the “Change” movement, in last weekend’s election in the Kurdistan region of Iraq took everyone by surprise. While the final results have yet to be announced, early indications show that Gorran has managed to upset the dominant Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party (PUK) in its traditional stronghold of Sulaymaniyah. The loss of many seats in the city is seen as a harbinger of a potentially difficult period for both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) – of which the PUK is one of two pillars – and the future of relations between Baghdad and the KRG.
But Gorran’s success is not necessarily a bad outcome for either the KRG or Iraq. With national elections planned for January 2010, everything depends on how the KRG leadership deals with the upset.

The KRG is composed of the PUK, led by the current Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) which is run by Massoud Barzani, the current president of the KRG and the son of the founder of modern Iraqi Kurdish nationalism, Molla Mustafa Barzani. The elections were to decide the composition of the KRG parliament and the presidency, although Mr Barzani ran against no opposition to speak of.
In the 1990s, when northern Iraq was under the watchful eye of a US-led air defence umbrella, the two parties bickered over territory and the distribution of revenues. Realising that the toppling of the Saddam regime in 2003 was their best chance at achieving a robust autonomous existence within the boundaries of a federal Iraq, the parties decided to integrate their administrations. Though far from perfect, the arrangement has worked.
Although Iraqi Kurdistan became an island of stability compared to the rest of Iraq, the public resented the two parties’ complete dominance of the Kurdish region and the corruption that went along with it. Ironically the Iraqi Kurds who had forged the model for democracy in Iraq saw the national parliament become more vocal and feisty in challenging the executive, whereas their own regional parliament was transformed into a rubber stamp.
The second irony is that it was the PUK that paid the price for the people’s anger, although the KDP is the one that really dominates the northern region. The PUK had sent both Mr Talabani and Barham Salih, a senior PUK official currently serving as Iraq’s deputy prime minister, to Baghdad. While the KDP’s leadership stayed closer to home, strains in the PUK began to show as Mr Talabani and Mr Salih focused their attention on Baghdad.
In 2006, the PUK-controlled region was shocked as the population made a display of its discontent by destroying the monument to the victims of Saddam’s infamous Anfal campaign and gassing of civilians in Halabja. Last year senior PUK officials, close supporters of Mr Talabani, resigned from the party in protest, although they later returned.

This is perhaps why Mr Salih, who is known to be not just squeaky clean but also as a very competent administrator, was selected to return to northern Iraq to lead the unified Kurdistan list. The assumption was that Mr Salih would assume the premiership of the KRG from his KDP counterpart and begin reforms. The success of the Gorran movement has cast this in doubt.
In some ways it is not surprising that the Gorran movement was successful in Sulaymaniyah. The PUK has always been a more middle-class movement compared with the KDP’s rural roots. Sulaymaniyah, the most important city in PUK territory, is also in a more modern and globalised region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Gorran’s success could still be a blessing in disguise if the KDP-PUK list manages to eke out a majority of seats and Mr Salih assumes the premiership of the KRG. Although politically bruised, Mr Salih could use the post to speed up reforms, fight corruption, family dominance and cronyism, and in the process consolidate a more democratic system in Iraqi Kurdistan. Gorran’s success, the fact that so many people stood up to the dominant party, is proof that democratic politics is taking root in parts of Iraq.
On the other hand, if the KDP ditches its alliance with the PUK or tries to take advantage of its partner’s weakness, then Iraqi Kurdistan could be in for a period of uncertainty and instability. First of all, the opposition’s success is not going to make Iraqi Kurds more willing to compromise on the question of Kirkuk. Mr Barzani made statements as he cast his ballot that indicate the exact opposite is probably true. This will set Irbil on a collision course with Baghdad where prime minister Nouri al Maliki, anxious to add to his nationalist credentials ahead of national elections, is likely to harden his own position regarding the Kurds. In addition to the disputed city and province of Kirkuk, there is also the problem of the unresolved hydrocarbon law.
Increasing tensions between Baghdad and the KRG are also bound to affect KRG-Turkish relations, which had taken an unexpected turn for the better of late. The Turks dropped many of their objections to the KRG and began to actively collaborate with the Kurds on a number of points, including the export of oil and gas from Iraqi Kurdistan. It is too early to ascertain how the Iranians may choose to enter this high-stakes game, but there is no question that it provides them another opening for mischief should they decide to employ it.
Finally, this kind of instability, especially considering that the Kurdish region is strong militarily, would be the last thing Washington would like to see develop as it gets ready to extract itself from Iraq. The question of Iraqi Kurdistan has always been a gnawing problem for the Americans; after all, it is the Americans who have let the Kurds down in the past. Exiting as tensions between Baghdad and the KRG come to a boiling point would not be a happy outcome.
Henri J Barkey is a non-resident Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment and a professor of international relations at Lehigh University
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11. Iraqi Kurds seek mutual dependence, not annexation, with Turkey

28 July 2009,
KERIM BALCI ARBIL
Today’s Zaman

“This is made in China; this one in Iran, but this is original,” he describes the ready-to-wear clothing items on display. This salesman from Arbil uses the word “original” to mean “made in Turkey.”
Auto spare parts dealer Danyal says that he has been making all sorts of financial sacrifices in order to pay the tuition fees for his son who attends the Light College in Arbil and thanks God for being able to visit İstanbul. “I would also take my son with me, but visa formalities are very strict,” he laments. During the conversations in teahouses, I can discern the glimmer of hope that mentioning the possibility of marrying a Turkish girl brings to the eyes of young Kurdish boys.
This love mixed with admiration toward Turkey that is readily observable among the people in the street can also be found in certain positions of the regional Kurdish government in northern Iraq. At the rallies they held for elections that had the potential to affect the fate of the region, Massoud Barzani, the head of the regional administration, as well as his nephew Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister, felt the need to touch on Turkey and the future of their relations with Turkey in their speeches.
This is a clear indication that they are aware of the fact that these relations are as vital as the elections itself. For activist Heymen Hussein Muhammad, who wrote for the English language daily Soma, owned by the wife of Iraq's Kurdish President Jalal Talabani, these statements target not only Ankara, but also Kurdish youth. In talking about the problems of Kurdish youth with the existing government, he lists Massoud Barzani's role as the frequent disruptor of relations with Turkey and adds: “The people of Kurdistan want to have an administration that can improve relations with Turkey.”
In a recent report titled “Iraq and Kurds,” prepared by the International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels-based US think tank, it was argued that the Kurds are pondering annexation to Turkey. Can this argument be true? Nebez Goran, the editor-in-chief of the biweekly Cihan, acknowledges that leaders in northern Iraq have really been discussing for some time whether they should be annexed to Turkey, whether being a satellite state orbiting around Ankara is better than orbiting around Baghdad. “I do not know if they really intend to do this in the end, but I think they are using the Ankara option as a card in bargaining with Baghdad over oil and Kirkuk issues,” says Goran.
Independent journalist Rebwar Kerim Wali, who in the past acted as manager of a conglomerate of newspapers belonging to Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), maintains that these debates can be attributed to the fact that many Kurdish leaders, particularly Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, approach regional issues with a businessman's mentality. Thus, a union of Turkey and Kurdistan resembles a case in which two rival firms decide to merge due to market conditions. “Nechirvan Barzani regards life and politics from an economy-oriented standpoint. He has a technocratic perspective. He does not let names or prejudices block his view. For instance, he does not care much if Turkey calls this region Kurdistan or just northern Iraq. His message is: ‘There is wealth here. I cannot operate it on my own. Come and let us share this wealth',” said Kerim Wali, explaining this businessman-like mindset. A taxi driver who refrains from divulging his name but whom we can conclude from his nicely accented Turkish to be a Turkmen from Arbil, sums up this mentality as follows: “Baghdad gives Nechirvan 17 percent. If he can get 20 percent, he would consent to being annexed to Iran or Syria.”
The taxi driver may be exaggerating when he suggests that the regional Kurdish government is ready to discuss the fate of the region over a 3 percent margin of profit from its energy reserves, but given the fact that Turkey and northern Iraq can complement each other from an economic standpoint, one can see how economy plays a major role in these debates. Natural resources in the Kurdish region include carbon fuels needed not only by Turkey, but also by Europe. Indeed, the ICG's report notes that if the regional government manages to provide natural gas via Turkey to the Nabucco project, which will decrease Europe's dependence on Russian gas, this will be a vital step in terms of its relations with the central Baghdad administration. Yet this entire analysis itself is proof that the expectations nurtured by the Kurds of northern Iraq toward Turkey should be discussed within the scope of “mutual dependence,” not of “annexation.”
Yet, economy is not the only determinant. That high-ranking officials from the regional government have started to voice the option of annexation to Turkey, though with anonymity, implies that other options are not only less economically efficient, but that they are also questioned from a political perspective.
Azad Aslan, who writes articles on politics for the weekly Kurdish Globe, recalled that during the general elections held in 2007, the people in Arbil, Sulaimaniya and Dahuk also voted in a referendum, and about 98 percent opted for independence. Aslan argues that Kurds agreed to become a part of the Iraqi federation because the regional conditions were not suitable for independence and stresses that the matter of annexing to Turkey can be discussed only after a number of “ifs” are fulfilled: if the conflict of interest between Arabs and Kurds mounts to the point of breaking with the union; if a conjuncture arises that has the potential for destroying all that Kurds have acquired; and if within that conjuncture, independence remains out of the question.
Nevertheless, Aslan admits to having observed that there is a tendency, particularly among the young generations of Kurds of northern Iraq, toward distancing from Arabs and searching for integration with the West. “Turkey is a door that opens to the West for Kurdistan,” he says and adds, “I am sure that the people of Kurdistan desire Turkey's EU membership more than many Turks.”
Our vehicle departs from Salahaddin one day before the elections but is stopped at the entrance to Arbil. When they learn that we are Turkish journalists, Kurdish security officials do no know what to do and consult their chief, who tells them, “Do not mess with Turkish journalists.” Then, I ask our driver with whom will they mess. “With Arabs,” he responds. Thus, I can discern a trace of sincerity within this talk on being annexed to Turkey. I recall the words of the Kurdish official who spoke to the ICG on the condition of anonymity: “It is our right to be independent, but if this cannot be done, then I'd rather be with Turkey than Iraq, because Iraq is undemocratic. [The best way forward is for] the Kurdistan region to join Turkey as part of a new Mosul vilayet and for Turkey to join the EU, with a solution for the situation of the Kurds in Turkey.”
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12. Turkey working on bid to solve Kurdish problem, PM says

22 July 2009,
REUTERS ANKARA

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday the government was working on steps aimed at solving the Kurdish problem, a cause of decades of violence and poverty in the country's southeast
Whether we call it the Kurdish, the southeast or eastern problem, whether we call it the Kurdish initiative, we have started work on this," Erdoğan told a news conference before departing on a trip to Syria.
He did not specify when the plan would be announced or what reforms it might include, but said the Interior Ministry was discussing what steps could be taken with military headquarters, the national intelligence agency and other ministries.
They will also consult members of parliament in the mainly Kurdish southeast on the issue and after a final assessment by the government the plan will be announced.
During the news conference, Erdoğan referred to moves to open Kurdish language and literature departments in Turkish universities, to supplement the launching of a state Kurdish language broadcaster at the start of this year. He did not specify any further possible reforms .
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