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Iraqi Kurds are closely following the Turkish elections


Written by: euronews with ap

Although Kilicdaroglu enjoys real primacy among the Kurds, Iraqi Kurdistan is wary, mixed with a sense of national solidarity. Iraqi Kurds also dream of a solution to the “Kurdish issue” in Turkey, where opposition leaders are imprisoned and the minority suffers discrimination.

Iraqi Kurds are closely watching the Turkish presidential elections, and the autonomous region in northern Iraq, affected by the conflict between the Turkish army and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), is looking forward to de-escalation, but is also keen on maintaining a strategic partnership with Ankara.

Officially, the region’s leaders did not comment on the intense rivalry between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who is supported by a six-party alliance, which will be resolved on May 14.

However, Iraqi Kurdish political analyst Adel Bakwan points out that “in the media and in the political field, everyone is very busy with the Turkish elections,” recalling the “basic” geopolitical role that Ankara plays in the region.

On the security level first, the conflict between the Turkish army and the PKK militants, which has extended for many years to the Iraqi territory, is one of the most prominent challenges.

Turkish forces regularly carry out air strikes and ground operations against dozens of military sites in the region of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara and the West classify as a “terrorist” organization.

“The outcome of this election will directly affect the direction of this war on the Kurdish lands in Iraq,” Bakwan, director of the French Center for Iraq Research, told AFP.

And in the event of the opposition’s victory, he does not rule out “the possibility of a truce,” after Kilicdaroglu extended his hand to the Kurdish minority.

“at a dead end”

Referring to the thirst for “political, security and economic stability” in the Middle East, Botan Tahsin, a researcher in Turkish affairs, believes that even if Erdogan wins, “Turkey will need an initiative to normalize the situation with its neighbors, especially with Kurdistan” in Iraq.

He believes that “the future of the democratic process in Turkey depends on the alliance with the Kurds and justice for their rights.” The researcher also considers that the Turkish opposition “is betting on calm and wants to open a new page” with the Kurds.

Within two decades, Turkey has turned, during Erdogan’s rule, into a major regional power in the region, negotiating with Moscow over the war in Syria, and challenging Washington and the Europeans.

With the exception of statements condemning the violation of Iraqi sovereignty and the consequences for civilians, the KRG has never escalated its rhetoric against its neighbor, which remains above all a strategic economic partner.

There are three land border crossings between the region and Turkey, the last of which, the Zait border crossing, opened on May 10th.

For many years, the Kurdistan region of Iraq relied on Turkey to export about 450,000 barrels of oil per day, without the approval of the central government in Baghdad. And while the export stopped in March due to a legal dispute between Ankara and Baghdad, it is supposed to resume eventually, once technical and financial issues are settled between the two parties.

“It is clear that whoever rules in Ankara will have an influence on this issue,” Bekwan said.

The researcher warns that the elections could be a turning point for Kurdistan, as the leaders in Erbil built a personal relationship with Erdogan, who became a “very important ally.” “Once the president changes, the entire relationship between Erbil and Ankara will change,” he explains.

“Then the relationship and the link should be re-established with someone you do not know,” he added, noting that “the diplomatic world hates the unknown.”

“a dialogue”

In a reflection of the good relations between the region and Ankara, Erbil airport authorities on Sunday prevented the Turkish deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, Hassan Ozgonish, from entering the region and sent him back to his country, justifying that he came “at the request of the federal security services” in Baghdad.

In late April, the HDP, Turkey’s third largest party, called on its allies to vote for Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

While the opposition coalition did not present a vision of how to solve the Kurdish issue, Kilicdaroglu, in a short video clip posted on social media, accused his rival Erdogan of “stigmatizing” millions of Kurds by associating them with terrorism.

Kılıçdaroğlu confirmed that if elected, he would immediately release Salah al-Din Demirtas, the former head of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, imprisoned since 2016 on charges of “terrorist propaganda.”

Although Kilicdaroglu enjoys real primacy among the Kurds, Iraqi Kurdistan is wary, mixed with a sense of national solidarity. Iraqi Kurds also dream of a solution to the “Kurdish issue” in Turkey, where opposition leaders are imprisoned and the minority suffers discrimination.

In Mam Khalil Café in the center of Erbil, which dates back to 1952, Nizar Sultan, 60, a government employee at Salah al-Din University in Erbil, “hopes that the next Turkish government and the Kurds will sit at a dialogue table.”

He added, “In all previous times, they used the Kurds to reach their ends, unfortunately, and then they marginalized the Kurds and defrauded them.”

After casting his vote at the Turkish consulate in Erbil, Turkish Kurdish citizen Kadri Shemzeno, 60, told AFP, dressed in traditional Kurdish dress, “We do not ask for anything extra for the Kurdish people.”

He added, who is one of the 3,834 Turkish citizens residing in Iraqi Kurdistan, “We want equality with Turkish citizens in rights and to live in dignity on this land because we are also its children.”

From his library in central Erbil, Sirwan Negm, 50, called on the Kurds in Turkey to vote “for the candidate who will deal with the Kurdish issue diplomatically.” And he stressed that “the Kurdish problems must be put on the table of dialogue, resolved and their basic rights recognized.”

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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