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Turkey hints support for independent Kurdistan if Iraq's unity impossible

English.news.cn   2014-07-11 23:20:04

ANKARA, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Officially, Turkey supports a united Iraq with territorial integrity, yet Ankara also hinted that it is willing to accept an independent Kurdistan if Iraq's unity cannot be maintained, analysts said.

Recently, Turkish ruling party's deputy Chairman and spokesperson Huseyin Celik said Iraq is now in a de facto divided situation.

"We never hope for it (disintegration of Iraq), but if Iraq is to be divided officially, Kurds in northern Iraq has the right to determine their political future on their own just as other people in Iraq," he said in a written statement issued recently.

However, speaking to several foreign media outlets last month, Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani said the time has come for Iraqi Kurds to realize their decades- old dream of becoming an independent state.

Barzani has already asked the region's legislature last week to prepare for a referendum on self-determination.

Kurds already secured the right to govern themselves in an autonomous region since 2005. But disputes over oil rights, revenue sharing and border demarcation have remained unfixed.

The regional leader also told a German newspaper on Monday that he does not expect to have active assistance or resistance from Turkey over the issue of independence.

BOOSTED TURKEY-KURDS TIES

In recent years, Turkey has enjoyed better relations with the KRG than it has with the Iraqi federal government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Turkey's improving relations with Iraqi Kurds in economic field, especially in oil and gas industry, have also contributed to help boost their political ties.

Barzani is supportive of the settlement process, which was initiated by the Turkish government in 2012 to resolve the country 's decades-old terrorism problem in predominantly Kurdish populated areas in Turkey's southeast and east.

Turkey has long opposed to the idea of independent Kurdistan for fear of stirring up separatist feelings among its own Kurds. It may have softened its stance now over improved ties with Barzani's KRG.

"The argument that says the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan will further promote Kurdish separatism in Turkey is not convincing," Sahin Alpay, a professor of political science and international relations, said.

He believed that Turkey's territorial integrity cannot be relied on opposing a possible independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, but on meeting the democratic demands of Turkey's Kurds by adopting a liberal and pluralist constitution.

The advance of the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) with the capture of Iraq's second city Mosul last month has also propelled Ankara to further grow its ties with the Iraqi Kurds, whose land is now seen as buffer zone against the expansion of al-Qaida affiliated terror groups that poses threat to Turky's own national security.

Kurds seized on power vacuum created by the advance of ISIL in Iraq and took over the control of larger territory including oil- rich Kirkuk.

ARAB ANXIETY

Turkey's ambiguous position toward Kurds' possible independence may harm Ankara's ties with Arab states, which are already in a troubled state as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is critical over the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, former Muslim Brotherhood leader, from the power amid mass protests.

"Turkey should implement a very careful strategy towards a newly independent Kurdish state," said Gokhan Bacik, professor of international relations at Ipek University.

"Unbalanced and excessively quick reactions may create anti- Turkish sentiment in the Arab world," he warned.

"The dissolution of Iraq is likely to have negative consequences for Turkey, due to increased tensions with Arabs ( particularly Baghdad) and turmoil in the region with changing borders," he added.

Turkish opposition is also critical of government over Kurdistan's independence.

The opposition Nationalist Movement Party leader Devlet Bahceli criticized the government for silently supporting Kurdistan's independence by allowing the region to export its oil to international market through Turkish territory and port.

He believed that the Turkish government is making a "grave strategic threat" by supporting an independent Kurdistan.

Editor: yan
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