- Title: IRAQ: Turkey's president Gul meets Kurdish and Iraqi PMs in Baghdad
- Date: 25th March 2009
- Summary: BAGHDAD, IRAQ (MARCH 24, 2009) (REUTERS) MEETING BETWEEN KURDISH PRIME MINISTER NECHIRVAN BARZANI AND TURKISH PRESIDENT ABDULLAH GUL IN BAGHDAD VARIOUS OF MEETING BETWEEN NECHIRVAN AND GUL (SOUNDBITE) (Kurdish) KURDISH PRIME MINISTER NECHIRVAN BARZANI, SAYING : "On behalf of the Kurdish region, Iraq and Iraq's constitution, we would like to confirm our position, we will not accept to be a launch pad for attacks against neighbouring countries." BAGHDAD, IRAQ (MARCH 24, 2009) (REUTERS) (MUTE) GUL, GUL'S WIFE, HAYRUNNISA, AND IRAQI PRIME MINISTER NURI AL-MALIKI ENTERING BUILDING / SHAKING HANDS WITH IRAQI OFFICIALS VARIOUS OF AL-MALIKI AND GUL TALKING DURING MEETING IRAQI POLITICAL LEADERS ATTENDING THE MEETING AL-MALIKI AND GUL TALKING DURING MEETING
- Embargoed: 9th April 2009 13:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVACWY9LE5VNE4UPX2NFLU6PRZOQ
- Story Text: Turkish president Abdullah Gul seeks to strengthen bilateral ties with Kurdistan and Iraq, at a meeting with their respective prime ministers.
Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Iraqi Prime Minister Abdullah Gul met Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Baghdad on Tuesday (March 24). Gul arrived in Baghdad on Monday in a visit aim at strengthening bilateral ties between two countries.
Gul urged the prime minister of Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdistan region to "take a clear position" against Kurdish separatist rebels using Iraq as a base to attack Turkey.
Gul is the first Turkish leader who has agreed to formally meet an official from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which has enjoyed de facto autonomy from Iraq since 1991.
Turkey accuses the KRG of not doing enough to crack down on rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which operates out of northern Iraq to launch attacks on southeastern Turkey.
"On behalf of the Kurdish region, Iraq and Iraq's constitution, we would like to confirm our position, we will not accept to be a launch pad for attacks against neighbouring countries," Barzani told journalists after meeting Gul.
Barzani also added that talks had greatly improved relations between the KRG and Turkey. But he said he supported calls for an amnesty for the PKK, something that Turkey has shown little interest in.
Acknowledging the existence of the KRG has been taboo among Turkish politicians mindful of reigning-in Kurdish hopes of statehood on Turkish soil.
But the ruling AK Party has launched a series of initiatives aimed at improving the rights of Kurds, who have long complained of discrimination by the Turkish state.
The PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by Washington and the European Union, is fighting for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey. Turkey regularly shells PKK targets in Iraq.
Gul met Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki later on Tuesday.
Apart from the PKK presence in northern Iraq, another issue likely to be discussed by Gul and Iraqi officials is the allocation of water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which originate in Turkey but flow through Iraq.
Turkish dams have exacerbated Iraqi water shortages.
Gul's trip to Iraq was the first by a Turkish head of state for 33 years. Ties have been strained between Baghdad and Ankara over the PKK but a visit to Iraq by Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan last year, marked a significant thaw in relations.
In January, Turkey, Iraq and the United States agreed to set up a joint command centre in northern Iraq to gather intelligence to fight the PKK.
Ankara blames the PKK for 40,000 deaths since 1984, when the group took up arms.
Turkey and Iraq are major trading partners, and some 400,000 barrels of Iraqi oil a day -- more than a fifth of its exports -- are piped through the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
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