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Erdogan mishandles Kurdish files

Turkey should consider a more balanced and less personalized approach to dealing with the Kurdish question.
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani (R) attend a ceremony with Erdogan's wife Emine Erdogan in Diyarbakir November 16, 2013. The president of Iraqi Kurdistan called on Turkey's Kurds to back a flagging peace process with Ankara on Saturday, making his first visit to southeastern Turkey in two decades in a show of support for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Barzani's trip to Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast, comes as Ankara fi

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan can be lauded for addressing the Kurdish problem in ways his predecessors were unwilling or unable to do. In Turkey, he has recognized the Kurds and their language rights, negotiated a cease-fire and “peace process” with Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan and even publicly referred to Kurdistan in a recent ceremony with Kurdish leaders in Diyarbakir. Erdogan also has successfully negotiated with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, assuring Ankara’s security, commercial and energy interests in ways that were unthinkable just five years ago.

Despite these efforts, Erdogan’s strategies have not necessarily moderated Kurdish transnationalism or fully assured Turkish interests across borders. To be sure, the Ankara-KRG alliance has assuaged an important segment of Iraqi Kurdish society and Kurds tied to KRG President Massoud Barzani. Barzani has become Turkey’s interlocutor in addressing Kurdish issues in Syria and Turkey, and more recently part of Erdogan’s re-election campaign in southeast Turkey. This alliance is also furthering Barzani’s aim to become leader of all the Kurds and has reinforced the KRG’s dependence on Turkey and need to coordinate its nationalist agenda with Ankara.

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