President Massoud Barzani recently visited Turkey, acting in the wake of complaints from Baghdad about the presence of Turkish troops in Northern Iraq.
While in Turkey, he spoke about trying to reconcile the long standing differences between the two countries, and how he didn’t hate Turkey in the way that might have been assumed by some outside observers.
What does this mean? Are Turkey and Kurdistan now friends? Are they allies? The historical complexities of their relationship are always going to be hard to sum up quickly or easily, but this visit seems to signal at least some thawing of relations between the two. It probably points more to a longer process of rapprochement based on mutual need than to sudden amity between the two governments, however.
Turkey and Kurdistan need to work together for the sale of oil, for economic prosperity, and for military defence against terrorist groups like Daesh.
Despite their chequered history, they have started to work together in the face of current needs. President Barzani’s visit appears to be a recognition of those needs, and of the fact that governments must deal with situations as they stand, not just as they once were.
Yes, some of the factors pushing the two countries apart still exist. Turkey still undoubtedly fears that independence for Kurdistan would mean parts of its own territory breaking away. Kurdistan still remembers some of the ways its people have found themselves treated in the past. There may even be those today who might argue against visits like this one.
That though, is precisely why such visits are necessary. It is easy to visit one’s closest friends. It is the uneasy alliances that we must work hardest to shore up. Talking is the only way the two governments will be able to work out their differences, and certainly the only chance they have to keep working together despite them.
Talking represents a hope for the future that continual standoffishness will never have. It is a step in the right direction, even if it is probably too early to declare any kind of close friendship between Kurdistan and the Turkish government.
By Davan Yahya Khalil