Iraq, Kirkuk And The PKK

BY SOLI OZEL

SABAH- The things happening in Iraq concern Turkey. It`s also not enough to be concerned with just northern Iraq due to the terrorist PKK and Kurds there, because Iraq`s future is the key variable in how the balance of power will be established in the Middle East and Gulf region. Iraq`s future will remain unpredictable as long as the power struggle there is unresolved. Five years after the invasion, it`s clear that Iran is very strong, and this disturbs Sunni Arab states. Besides, as US commander and `surge` architect Gen. David Petraeus said earlier this month, the violence will continue.

The number of US troops won`t fall until at least 2009. Recent conflicts among Shiites and efforts to make radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr powerless have proved fruitless. It`s also uncertain how long the Sunnis will act the way Americans want. For now, I can say that Iraq will remain unsteady and violent for a long time and that the one-seventh of the population who had to leave the country won`t easily return. In addition, despite all this instability, nobody will benefit from the disintegration of the country, so it seems its territorial integrity will continue.

Returning from a recent meeting in Kuwait of foreign ministers of countries neighboring Iraq, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan also stressed the importance of territorial integrity. Babacan said nobody is talking about Iraq`s disintegration or seeing it as positive. For Babacan, one result of Turkey`s operations against the terrorist PKK was that the center of the Kurdish region in the north approached the central government.

In this respect, Babacan considers the expected Iraqi oil law important in terms of determining how power and revenues will be divided and the system as a whole. According to Babacan, Kirkuk is very important, and problems there will influence the entire country. Babacan also said that there would be no referendum on Kirkuk this June either, and Turkey is sensitive about the Kirkuk issue, because this would affect all the groups in Iraq and Iraq`s future. In this respect, Babacan also finds UN statements close to Turkey`s position.

Babacan also said that Iran is Turkey`s neighbor and that dialogue with Tehran doesn`t mean that we support its policies, and stressed that Turkey is absolutely against the region having nuclear arms. Asked whether the closure case against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had affected his meetings, Babacan said the question came up often and that they explained the situation. Babacan added that since a similar crisis was overcome last year, there are high expectations that this time the result will be the same.

`But it`s sad that in a country which is growing stronger and gaining influence in the region, these kinds of problems occur,` he added. `Why should I get such questions? It`s very uncomfortable to have a country which sets a democratic example for the entire region and spearheads such concepts as democratic rights, women`s rights and the rule of law, stresses pluralism and tries to make others adopt this as well, transformed into a country wracked by internal problems. When countries in a more difficult situation than ours treat us with near-pity, it saddens me greatly`.

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