On Thursday, August 24, 2023, the Kurdistan Regional Government's Prime Minister, Masrour Barzani, welcomed Mr. Mark Stroh, the recently appointed US Consul General to Erbil.
Kurdistan Regional Government
24. August 2023 15:53
This is why politicians have press officers: to deftly spin sensitive topics
During his visit to Iraq, Fidan focused primarily on the PKK and security concerns, yet the Prime Minister's official statement about the visit made no mention of the PKK. To see the emphasis Fidan placed on the PKK issue, please refer to our earlier posts.
Full text issued by the KRG PM's media office:
The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Masrour Barzani, welcomed Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on Thursday. The meeting also included Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Alparslan Bayraktar. Discussions centered on the latest developments in Iraq and the region, as well as opportunities for expanding bilateral relations.
Prime Minister Barzani emphasized the importance of strengthening trade relations with Turkey and easing travel and tourism between the two countries. Another key topic was the need to resume oil exports from the Kurdistan Region through Turkey's Ceyhan Port, along with addressing any related obstacles and issues. The halt in oil exports has had negative repercussions for all parties involved.
Discussions also touched on the "Development Road" project, aimed at connecting Gulf countries and Iraq to Turkey and the wider world via rail. In this context, the Prime Minister stressed that the project should proceed with the consent and coordination of the Kurdistan Region, to the benefit of all Iraqi citizens and diverse communities.
Turkish Foreign Minister Fidan expressed his delight at visiting the Kurdistan Region and confirmed Turkey's readiness to strengthen relations across all sectors.
In a subsequent media interview, both the Prime Minister and the Turkish Foreign Minister highlighted the importance of bilateral relations in the areas of economy and trade, as well as the need for coordinated efforts to ensure security and stability in Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and the surrounding areas.
24. August 2023 15:44
Kurdish analyst Adel Bakhawan discussed Ankara-Baghdad relations during an interview with Kurdistan 24 TV, focusing on Hakan Fidan's recent visit to Iraq.
According to Bakhawan, the visit was less about negotiations and more about Turkey outlining its specific demands to Iraqi officials. Ankara's stance, as interpreted by Bakhawan, is that negotiations are not on the table due to their perception that Iraq lacks sovereignty and leverage.
Turkey has articulated key conditions: Iraq must disarm the PKK and expel them if it seeks developmental assistance from Turkey, and there must be a resolution to issues surrounding the Paris arbitration court's ban on the Kurdistan Region's oil exports to Turkey.
Bakhawan noted that, in his estimations, Fidan's visit did not significantly advance Turkey-Iraq relations.
'Gorran loses trust in voters, plans to boycott elections'
Today's (in fact, this week's) standout news headline comes from Hawlati Daily. Instead of the self-evident notion that voters have lost trust in Gorran—which failed to win a single seat in the last Iraqi parliamentary elections—the headline indicates that it's Gorran that has lost trust in the electorate and is therefore planning to 'boycott' the upcoming Iraqi provincial elections in December.
The fate of the Change Movement (Gorran) is as clear as day. The party finds itself adrift in regional and federal. Once a blockbuster opposition party that quickly rose to challenge the PUK's position as the second-largest party in the Kurdistan Region, it now appears to be left for dead, holding only a handful parliamentary seats in Kurdistan's parliament (and likely to lose most of them next year). The party is part of the coalition government, and many of its supporters and voters are angry at its leadership, leading to a heavy boycott in the last round of elections.
Though Gorran has not yet formally decided to abstain from the provincial elections, most officials seem to agree that this would be for the best.
The Turkish FM has posted just one tweet since arriving in Iraq three days ago (his first in over a week): "May God have mercy on our Mehmet, Infantry Specialist Sergeant Ali Demir, who was martyred in the Claw-Lock Operation region. I offer my condolences to his family and our beloved nation."
This highlights the importance Ankara places on its fight against the PKK in it public messaging.
The post was made three hours ago while he was in meetings with Kurdistan Region officials. No tweets on those meetings or the ones in Baghdad yesterday.
Speaking of Qubad Talabani, the Turkish Foreign Minister is planning to meet him later today. High-stakes issues persist between the PUK and Ankara that haven't been directly addressed, specifically the closure of Turkish airspace to flights from Sulaymaniyah Airport.
The issue at hand is the PUK's friendly relations with the PKK, which Ankara is well aware of.
Moreover, strained relations between the KDP and PUK mean that the PUK still relies on the PKK to leverage its position vis-à-vis the KDP.
24. August 2023 14:17
KRG Deputy PM Qubad Talabani discussed press freedom with visiting Mark Stroh, the new US consul general in the Kurdistan Region's capital, Erbil. "Both parties agreed that the Region should not compromise on these issues. Instead, there should be a healthier and more professional relationship between the political authority and the media."
The PUK has recently spotlighted one of the KDP's weaknesses by advocating for more press freedom, especially as high-profile cases like those of Guhdar Zebari and Sherwan Sherwani are back in the spotlight.
Pot, meet kettle. The PUK needs to do more than just highlight these issues. They must significantly reduce the number of violations against journalists and activists in the 'Green Zone,' over which they maintain security control. This is critical because the PUK remains the second-largest perpetrator of all violations against journalists in the KRI.
Ahead of today's packed agenda with Turkish and KRG officials, International Oil Companies (IOCs) met with the acting Minister of Natural Resources and other key figures in Erbil.
The IOCs expressed optimism in recent statements about resuming oil exports, though they remain uncertain about the timeline.
Here is the full translated statement from Umed Sabah, the head of the Council of Ministers:
Today, on the 23rd of August 2023, a meeting was held between the KRG and all the energy companies contracted with them, at the Council of Ministers' headquarters. The secretary of the Council of Ministers, the acting minister of natural resources, the minister of justice, and the head of the KRG's Coordination Command were all in attendance.
In addition to discussing the KRG’s support for energy companies, the meeting also covered the KRG's recent dialogues with Baghdad. Topics included the process for enacting the budget law, the costs associated with oil production for the energy companies, and the KRG's position on these subjects. Also discussed were the transferring of rights and financial obligations of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, as well as Baghdad's perspectives on these matters.
During the meeting, the contributions and activities of energy companies were highly praised. They were acknowledged as integral partners of the KRG. Both sides agreed on continuing dialogue with the Iraqi Government to resolve issues according to the constitution and budget law. Another part of the meeting tackled the federal draft oil and gas law and the positions of both the Kurdistan Regional and Iraqi governments on it. The energy companies shared their concerns and perspectives on this project.
No mention of security concerns in President Barzani's statement following his meeting with Fidan.
Here is the full translated statement:
Today, Nechirvan Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Region, welcomed the honorable Hakan Fidan, the Turkish Foreign Minister.
In the meeting, the honorable guests discussed Turkey's relations with Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, the joint assistance efforts, the relationship and problems between Erbil and Baghdad, and negotiations to resolve them, and the overall situation in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
President Nechirvan Barzani expressed his happiness with the visit, emphasizing the importance and high expectation of the Kurdistan Region in relations with Turkey. He expects that the joint relations will encompass trade, security, and investment. The Kurdistan Region is ready to develop relations in all aspects between Erbil and Ankara. He also thanked Turkey for its support to the Kurdistan Region in all aspects, especially in tough times, and affirmed that the Kurdistan Region never forgets Turkey's support and assistance.
In response, the honorable Turkish Foreign Minister emphasized that Turkey places special importance on its relations with Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, and Baghdad and Erbil hold a special significance for Turkey. He praised the calm and stability in Erbil and the Kurdistan Region, and the readiness of his country to expand relations and joint assistance in all aspects. He also thanked President Nechirvan Barzani for contributing to the relations between Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and Turkey.
In another part of the meeting, the conversation turned to the vital matter of the resumption of oil exports from the Kurdidtan Region through the Tukrish port of Ceyhan. They also discussed the general situation in the region and some other issues of mutual interests.
24. August 2023 12:33
Hakan Fidan's opening remarks at the meeting were largely centered on concerns about the PKK. He explicitly connected Erbil's stability and economic growth to Ankara's security concerns.
Here's what he said
Ankara views Erbil's stability and economic growth as important, and to ensure their continuation, Turkey is prepared to offer all the support, especially in countering terrorism. We thank them for their support to Turkey. I would like to thank them here for helping to overcome the disease of terror. There is much to do together. Turkey has been able to fully resolve this issue. Now, the terrorist group PKK is hiding within Iraqi territory, and God willing, we will overcome this virus. With the support of Baghdad and Erbil, we are determined to cleanse the Iraqi land of the terrorist organization, and we offer all our support for this.
24. August 2023 12:20
The main focus of Hakan Fidan's meeting with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister, Masrour Barzani, was the PKK
Ankara's concern with the PKK in the KRI appears to have been thoroughly addressed during this meeting.
Erbil is desperately awaiting resuming oil exports, and Turkey appears to be using these talks to leverage its demands, particularly with regard to its security concerns.
Here what Barzani said
We assure you that the Kurdistan Region will act in accordance with its constitution, ensuring it does not become a source of instability for its neighbors. we hope to maintain relations to jointly combat all forms of terrorism.
24. August 2023 11:27
Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Alparslan Bayraktar arrived in Erbil Thursday, hot on the heels of Hakan Fidan after his earlier arrival.
Bayraktar is expected to join a meeting between Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Fidan. The key agenda points are likely to include Ankara-Erbil bilateral ties and the resumption of the Kurdistan Region's oil exports, according to the pro-KDP Kurdistan 24.
Earlier this week, Turkey and Iraq 'agreed' to resume Kurdish oil exports after maintenance on the damaged Iraq-Turkey pipeline, though no firm date was forthcoming. It should be noted that the Iraq-Turkey Pipeline was inspected for damage after the earthquake and cleared to resume flowing after a single day of stoppages. It was only after the arbitration ruling against Turkey that it stopped exports and blamed 'damage'.
The visit follows a court ruling ordering Turkey to pay Iraq $1.5 billion in damages and comes amid other contentious issues such as water rights and ongoing conflict with the PKK.
Bayraktar's visit comes as Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Hakan Fidan arrived in the Kurdish capital on early Thursday.
24. August 2023 10:52
24. August 2023 10:50
Three PKK members killed in Turkish drone strike in the Kurdistan Region – authorities
Three members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, were killed Thursday in a Turkish drone strike in Erbil province's Sidekan district, according to authorities.
The strike occurred as Turkey's top diplomat visited the region.
A Turkish army drone targeted a PKK vehicle, killing one official and two fighters, Kurdish counter-terrorism services said.
The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and many Western countries. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan demanded Iraq also recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization during his tour of Baghdad's offices of power yesterday.
24. August 2023 10:47
Just as Turkey's foreign minister, Hakan Fidan, was landing in Erbil after completing the Baghdad leg of his eagerly anticipated visit to Iraq, local counter-terror forces announced the killing of three PKK members in a suspected Turkish drone strike.
Soon after, the Kurdistan presidency's media office sent out photos of Fidan being greeted warmly by President Nechirvan Barzani, who cultivated very close ties with Turkey during his tenure as PM.
The meeting between the two men has only just begun. We'll bring you all the action and reaction throughout the day as it unfolds.