The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

The PKK is ‘a Political Problem’: an Interview with Kurdistan Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir

Posted by vmsalama on October 27, 2007

Vivian Salama | 26 Oct 2007 

World Politics Watch Exclusive                                                                      


NEW YORK — Within minutes of the decision by Turkey’s parliament Oct. 17 to approve a potential Turkish military action against members of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, hordes of Iraqi Kurds poured into the streets in protest. The vote drew sharp criticism from Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), who said the Kurds of Northern Iraq were prepared to fight should Turkish soldiers set foot onto their soil. In an interview with Northern Iraq’s Bahdinan Radio, Barzani added “Saddam Hussein could not even finish the Kurds, so how does Turkey expect to finish them?”

Washington has repeatedly urged Turkey not to enter Northern Iraq. But Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the decision by the House Foreign Relations Committee Oct. 10 to recognize World War I-era atrocities against Armenians in Turkey as genocide would come at a great cost. “We value this [U.S.-Turkey] partnership greatly but under current circumstances, the task of defending its importance is becoming increasingly hard,” Erdogan wrote in an Oct. 19 Wall Street Journal editorial.

In addition to its status as an oasis of relative peace and prosperity in an otherwise chaotic country, Iraqi Kurdistan has logistical importance for the American war effort in Iraq. Approximately two-thirds of U.S. supplies travel through the region from Turkey. KRG Minister of Foreign Relations Falah Mustafa Bakir was in Washington last week lobbying U.S. lawmakers to oppose a Turkish incursion into Kurdistan. Before traveling to Washington, Bakir met with journalists at Columbia University in New York Oct. 12, where he disputed accusations by Turkey that his government is providing a safe haven for Kurdish separatists. The following is an excerpt from the interview with Bakir, conducted simultaneously by several reporters.
–Vivian Salama 

Turkey accuses your government of cooperating with the PKK by providing sanctuary to them. All the while, there is a lot of saber rattling at the border. What is your response?

Regarding the PKK issue, we understand Turkey’s concern and we respect Turkey’s concern. We are against violence and we do not like to see bloodshed happen. But we believe this problem is a political problem and it cannot be solved through military means. Even the problem in Iraq today is political and therefore needs a political solution. We do not provide sanctuary and we do not provide support for the PKK.We do not allow our territories in Kurdistan in Iraq to be used by any group against any of our neighbors and especially Turkey because we care about our relations with Turkey. We want to improve our relations. We want to enhance that relationship and we’re willing to help if the Turkish government takes a political approach to solve this problem.
*******Click here to read the entire interview


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