Regardless which perspective you look at it from, the visit to Iraq last week by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was "historic." Although his trips to Basra and Mosul without stopping in the capital of Baghdad had special meanings of their own, it was his stop in Arbil, the heart of the northern Kurdish region, that made his visit "historic."
I remember the kind of excitement that was created at all levels when Ahmet Yıldız, acting Turkish consul general in Mosul, attended the opening ceremony of a Turkish university (Işık University) in Arbil. A visit to Arbil by a Turkish diplomat was very important for them. During that time it was almost unimaginable for the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad to visit Arbil.
With that mind, you can imagine the kind of joy that greeted the Turkish plane flying Davutoğlu to Arbil. In the early days of the American invasion in 2003, a demonstration of 50,000 people in Arbil protested Turkey and burned Turkish flags. Last week, Turkish flags were in the hands of Kurdish children that came to welcome Davutoğlu. Three years hasn't even passed since President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani said, "If Turkey interferes in Kirkük we will interfere in Diyarbakır." The same Barzani showed so much attention to the Turkish foreign minister, who spent a night in Arbil, the only thing he didn't do was tuck him into bed. What led the Turkish state minister to visit Arbil and Barzani to welcome the visit with such great joy is the changes that have taken place in the regional and global sphere. An important factor in Turkey's position as the only power in the region to "keep an eye" on the region after US troops withdraw from Iraq is the reliable relations Turkey has established with all actors in Iraq.
Turkey's endeavor to solve the Kurdish problem and the launching of integration processes with its neighboring countries is turning Turkey into a supra-regional power. The Obama administration's policies regarding the region are for the first time parallel with Turkey's basic approaches. Northern Iraqi Kurdish groups don't stand a chance of coexisting with Turkey in this region if they stick to their 2003 or 2007 stances. Davutoğlu and the diplomats that accompanied him on his visit presented leaders in Arbil with a "regional vision." They explained that Turks, Kurds, Arabs and Iranians in the region would all have a very bright future if they acted with common sense and prudence. They reminded Barzani and his officials that the border that is crossed through the mountains was not drawn by Turks or Iraqi Kurds. One important statement that was made was, "if the border line was a bit toward our side or a bit on your side, a portion of our delegation members would be in your delegation and a portion of your delegation would be in our delegation."
Turkey offered northern Iraqi Kurds an opportunity to "make the border between them meaningless." This is Turkey's new vision for the region. The only obstacle standing in the way of this vision is the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terror. Perhaps for the first time Turkey is doing what is necessary to overcome terror. While Turkey is taking many risks and starting these initiatives, it rightly expects the northern Iraq administration to understand its vision and do what is necessary.
But did Barzani receive the message?
This is the first time we've seen Turkish diplomats leave Arbil so optimistic. They said it was the first time they saw the Kurdish administration be well-intentioned and determined. The general sentiment of the Turkish delegation was that Barzani understood and accepted the vision put forward by Turkey. This perception was the reason for their optimism. If Barzani and his friends have understood and accepted this vision then that means there is no obstacle in putting into practice the "Mesopotamian vision" between Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
We will have to wait and see.
© 2018 Gürkan Zengin - Personal Website