Jalal Talabani, who died mid last year, was the founder and for a long time leader of the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan). For a time there was a cease fire between Turkey and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) because of a deal he brokered. It all fell apart very quickly when the PKK abducted two Turkish agents from MIT (the Turkish National Intelligence Agency) while they were in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniah, a stronghold of the PUK. The PUK has always been an under the table supporter of the PKK and overt proponent of the YPG, a group with close ties to the PKK and both are long time enemies of Turkey.
Now Turkey is accusing the PUK of supporting terrorism and has halted all flights to Sulaymaniah while rejecting the PUK’s representative/ambassador to Turkey. The PUK’s council of leadership has disclosed to local media that, “Although a delegation of ours met with the Turkish foreign minister following the event and discussed the situation and the Dukan incident, it is likely that Turkey still does not believe that the PUK was unaware and un-involved.” They added that, “We have told Turkey that the PKK exists in the border zones. Just as it operates in the border areas controlled by PUK, it operates in border areas controlled by KDP. They operate even on Turkish soil and conduct activities on a daily basis.” The two Turkish agents were kidnapped by PKK operatives near Dukan last August and have been accused of plotting to assassinate high ranking members of the PKK in Kurdistan. The PUK has met with PKK leadership to ask that they not agitate Turkey or give them a reason to attack PUK territory.
One member of the PUK’s leadership council, Nasrullah Surchi, admitted that their refusing to continue flights between Sulaymaniah and itself, Turkey is still clinging to, “Grudges harbored from the Dukan incident.” He went on to say, “Turkey is confused. It accuses a party and a government every day, and it has now turned its attention towards the PUK and has decided not to lift the air flight ban towards Sulaimani. On the one hand it tries to destroy the Kurdish house and divide the Kurdistan Region into two administrations. On the other hand, it is paving the road for attacking Qandil.” He added that, “Through this method, Turkey wants the PUK to do two things for it – to either fight the PKK for it or open the road for it to attack Qandil. Surely PUK will do neither.”
This passed week a delegation of PUK representatives convened to discuss possible solutions to the situation. Blessah Jabar, a member of the meeting, reported that, “We can’t obstruct people’s activities in support of Afrin and Rojava, but these issues need to be resolved through dialogue.”
The Gorran party, a close ally to the PUK, has taken an interest in the relations as well. The head of the Gorran faction in Sulaymaniah, Rebwar Baziani, has said that the situation presents a “big danger” to Kurdistan. He elaborated with, “Iraq should respond to this. Turkey has accused this province of coordination with the PKK while the PKK is everywhere and conducts its activities. They are even inside Turkey. People in Sulaimani showed support for Afrin, but these people are not affiliated with the PKK. The Kurdish diaspora in Europe demonstrate every day, but not all these people are affiliated with the PKK.”
Members of the Komal party stressed similar sentiments with member Shwan Rabar stating, “It is statements made by some Turkish and PUK officials that have created this situation. The situation in our region is such that we cannot afford having problems with Turkey. Relations should be restored as soon as possible.”
Turkish foreign minister Behruz Galali openly condemned the PUK’s course of action in light of the Dukan incident. He ejected the PUK’s envoy from Turkey and sent the PUK leadership a letter that harshly criticized the party stating that the leaders, “who forget about themselves and the interests of the PUK and its zone by speaking about sending forces to Afrin,” and, “Please put a limit on those politicians who cannot see or look into the future. I think Turkey will put the PUK on its terror list, meaning that they can come to the province of Sulaimani.”
Haval Abubakir, Sulaymaniah’s governer, told local media, “We reject all acts of terror. Terrorism in Sulaimani has been defeated. There is no security vacuum in Sulaimani, and we have conveyed our perspective on this matter to the Turkish consul. We call on the KRG and Iraqi government to declare their position on this question. Sulaimani is far from what is being said.”
Featured Image courtesy of the PUK