Last updated: 14 November, 2011

Iraqi Kurd leaders head Turkey-PKK mediation

Iraq’s top Kurdish leaders are mediating between Turkey and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) separatists with bases in northern Iraq to bring their conflict to an end, an official said.

Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Kurdistan regional president Massud Barzani “are leading mediation efforts between the Turkish government and the PKK, to end the battles in the border area between Iran, Turkey and Kurdistan,” said a spokesman for Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

“The Turkish government expressed its desire to end the fighting during Massud Barzani’s last visit to Turkey,” said spokesman Azad Jundiany.

Barzani criticised Turkish military operations against the PKK during an early-November visit to Turkey, saying a political solution was needed.

“Honestly, I disapprove of all these operations … I don’t think that one can achieve the result with the military option”, Barzani told Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper.

“The fighting should happen in parliament,” he told the Anatolia news agency.

The Turkish military launched an operation in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region after a PKK attack last month killed 24 soldiers in the town of Cukurca near the Iraqi border, the army’s biggest loss since 1993.

Clashes between the PKK and Turkey’s army, a common phenomenon over the past decade, have escalated since the summer.

Listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, the PKK took up arms for Kurdish independence in southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.

Barzani has also made efforts to end fighting between the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), another northern Iraq-based separatist group, and Iran.

He and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in late October declared the PJAK issue “over.”

“With the good management of Mr Barzani, we were able to handle the issue of the PJAK terrorist group, and currently our borders with the Kurdistan region of Iraq is secure,” Salehi said.

“Mr Barzani vowed to have the best borders from now on so people can travel easily and not be subject to any insecurity … We consider this issue to be over,” Salehi added.