Iraqi Kurdish president calls for peaceful resolution in Turkey, freedom for Demirtaş

The president of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Nechirvan Barzani said Turkey should resolve the Kurdish problem via peaceful means and dialogue, not military methods, in an interview with Al Monitor published on Thursday.

Barzani said Turkey talking with the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and its jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan was in the interest of both sides, and that the former leader of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democartic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş, who remains in prison despite orders for his release, has a role to play in possible peace talks.

“I definitely believe that (Demirtaş) should be freed from prison and allowed to play this role,” the KRG president told Al Monitor.
The KRG’s relationship with Turkey has been and will continue to be good, Barzani said. 

The KRG president called on Syrian Kurds to heed Turkey’s concerns and disassociate themselves from the PKK, adding that the Kurdish issue in Syria should be resolved within Syria. 

“The Kurds of Syria are part of Syria,” Barzani said, “Unfortunately, the Baath mentality is a block.” But, according to Barzani, Russia could make a difference and help broker a deal between Kurds and the Syrian government.

Barzani said there was a standing invitation from the White House, with no date fixed yet, adding that he would be meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Davos, during the World Economic Forum that will start on Jan. 21.

The KRG president’s visit to Tehran was also still in the books, with no date fixed, he said.

On whether U.S. troops should withdraw from Iraq, Barzani said the impression Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi gave during his recent visit to Erbil was one that favoured “dialogue rather than confrontation,” and that the KRG believed the presence of U.S. forces is necessary under current circumstances. 

“All the intelligence indicates that the Islamic State has regrouped itself and that they are carrying out attacks against Iraqi targets on a daily basis. Hence, it's as much in the interest of Iraqi Kurdistan as it is for the whole of Iraq that US forces remain for the time being,” Barzani said.