“Ankara Unlikely to Oppose Kurdish Bid for Independence”
Turkey will not take a position against the Kurdistan region’s aspiration for independence as Ankara increasingly views the region as a partner for future cooperation, according to former Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen who served as the Turkish consul general in Erbil until 2013.
Selcen told Rudaw that the Turkish government has not expressed any negative opinion about the anticipated Kurdish referendum publically, while also authorities in the Kurdistan region have “candidly” avoided interfering in the ongoing conflict between Ankara and the Kurdish guerrillas in Turkey.
“The KDP (the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party) has so far candidly refrained from interfering in Turkey’s internal affairs and its Kurdish issues,” Selcen told Rudaw. “Ankara has also maintained good relations with the KDP and the Kurdish President Massoud Barzani and when you put all these in the larger picture, I believe Turkey will not choose to react bitterly against the further independence of the Kurdistan region,” Selcan said.
“On the contrary, I could say it will become a ground for a strategic cooperation between the two,” he added.
Kurdish authorities have said that the referendum which is planned to take place before the end of this year will also include the so called disputed city of Kirkuk with sizable Turkmen population that are historically supported by Ankara.
In a sign of radical shift of policy, Turkey hoisted the Kurdish flag as well as the Iraqi and Turkish flags at the Ankara airport in December while welcoming the visiting Kurdish president, something unthinkable only years ago.
“The Kurdistan region does not pose a threat against Turkey,” said Turkish university professor Mezher Bagli who also served as a lawmaker for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Turkish parliament. “Ankara should in fact support the independence of the Kurdistan region since it is the only way to prevent the realization of Western plans and intentions for this region,” he added.
The Kurdish president has said that many countries have shown support for Kurdistan region’s independence and those who have not backed it openly, will not oppose it either.
In June 2014 Barzani visited the Kurdish regional parliament in Erbil and assigned its members to prepare the groundwork for a referendum. But the ISIS shock offensive on the Kurdish controlled territories, including the attack on Yezidi town of Shingal, put the plan on hold.
“The fact that there are high volumes of cross border trade between Turkey and Kurdistan region will also play a crucial role in the Turkish support for Kurdistan’s independence,” said Fehim Tastekin, a Turkish author and journalist. “If Ankara refused to recognize the outcome of the referendum, Kurds will most likely be pushed to find new partners,” he added.
Apart from a 50-year oil deal with Ankara, Kurdistan region will also be a major exporter of natural gas to Turkey before 2020, according to the former Turkish Oil Minister Taner Yildiz.