Alwaght- Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s President Nechirvan Barzani visited Turkey on Friday for talks with the Turkish political officials.
The visit followed a visit on Monday to Iraq by the French President Emmanuel Macron who arrived in Baghdad from a two-day trip to Lebanon and met with Iraqi government leaders and Barzani.
Also, the trip to Turkey is taking place while in June Turkish army advanced 15 kilometers in the depth of the Iraqi territory under the excuse of a military campaign, dubbed Operations Claw-Eagle and Tiger, against Kurdish militants.
During his presence in Ankara, Barzani met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Another attention-garbing point in the visit was the figures who accompanied him to Turkey, all from the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
But what goals have taken him to Turkey? Two main drivers may have motivated him to pay the visit.
Promoting economic and trade ties
Definitely, the main driver behind Barzani’s trip to Ankara is economic. The trade ties between Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government over the past decade have been prospering against a backdrop of political and security challenges. Turkey has now stabilized itself as the Kurdish region’s window to the outside world, mainly to the global markets. This position facilitated for Turkish commercial presence in southern Iraqi provinces as well as the Persian Gulf Arab states.
According to a report published by Nowzad Adham, the head of the commercial department at the KRG’s ministry of industry and commerce, the KRG-Turkey’s current trade volume touches $12 billion. Statistics show that in the first two quarters of the year, their trade dropped $1 billion compared to the same time last year. Still, every day at least 1,300 trucks deliver food, medicine, home appliances fruits and vegetables, and construction material to the Kurdistan region and other parts of Iraq from Turkey.
Turkey, moreover, is the gate for KRG’s oil exports to the global markets. Although Baghdad over the past years frequently blasted the Ankara-Erbil oil cooperation and transfer, presently oil is an influential factor in Barzani’s discussions with the Turkish leaders, despite agreements between Baghdad and Erbil for delivery of the Kurdish oil to the Iraqi government.
PKK and Turkey’s return to negotiations
Another important matter of discussion between the two is the security affairs, and most importantly the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). After 1991, the year a Kurdish autonomous region was founded with advocacy of the United Nations Security Council in a territory in northern Iraq in the 36th parallel, the Barzanis and Turkey entered thorough cooperation to check the PKK, a Kurdish militant organization fighting the Turkish government at home for decades. Sometimes, they even launched joint military actions against the PKK fighters. Although after 2003, the year the US invasion of Iraq toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Erbil leaders ceased collaboration with Ankara against the PKK, their bilateral relations in other areas have continued.
In 2013, Masoud Barzani, then president of the region, played as an interlocutor in talks between the Turkish government and the PKK, bringing the two sides to a ceasefire agreement that fell two years later.
In the present conditions, Turkey feels threats posed by the PKK to its national security both from Iraq and Syria’s norths. So, it seems that, and as Barzani’s advisors have implied, Erbil's president seeks a mediatory role for the KDP between the two old foes. Barzani and Erdogan likely want to fuse negotiations between Ankara and the PKK for a possible peace deal that will give the Turkish president image boost at home among the Kurds. Erdogan badly needs the vote of the Kurdish minority in his country for the next election to save his power.