An election commission's vote counting center in Sulaimani, Kurdistan Region.
ISTANBUL, Turkey - The success of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in last month’s elections in Iraqi Kurdistan mean closer ties between Erbil and Turkey, the Ankara-based International Middle East Peace Research Center (IMPR) said in a recent report.
The 18-page report also said that the September 21 polls for the autonomous Kurdistan Region’s own parliament were orderly, honest and transparent. It said they were an assurance of stability and security for Turkey’s southern borders.
The KDP received the largest number of votes at the polls but the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), its partner in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), did not fare as well. It lost its standing as the second-strongest party to the opposition Change Movement, Gorran. The composition of the next government is yet to be decided.
“The KDP’s dominance in the forthcoming government would provide a powerful ally to Turkey both in Kurdistan and in the region because of the KDP’s desire to have even stronger relations with Turkey,” said the IMPR report, titled “KRG's parliamentary elections, coalition discussions and their effects on Turkey.”
“As a result of the economic, political, diplomatic and security cooperation with Kurdistan, the political stability of the Kurdistan region has become vital for Turkey,” said the report, jointly written by Turkish academic Dr Veysel Ayhan and his Kurdish-Iraqi partner Dr Aziz Barzani.
The report, apparently based on Turkish government sources, disclosed that, through intermediaries, Kurdistan’s Gorran party had sent signals to Ankara, seeking its support for a coalition government with the KDP.
“Albeit, Gorran has a close relationship with Iran, if it is going to be a partner to the new government a similar relationship with Turkey should be expected,” the report said. It added that Tehran is also likely to support Gorran as a partner in the next government.
“A Kurdish region with democratic values and institutions nearby Turkey is suitable with Turkey’s economic, security and political interests,” the report added.
It said that Turkey was especially reassured that the KDP’s success meant that its leader, Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, would retain his leadership role.
Barzani has initiated and supported moves for a democratic solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey, and the two sides have also reached common ground for a solution to the crisis in Syria.
In addition, Barzani has backed Turkish investments in the oil-rich Kurdistan Region and has been the impetus behind oil exports to -- and through -- Turkey.
The report underscored that the election victory of the KDP is likely to further enhance Erbil’s position against the central government in Baghdad, especially on issues such as oil contracts and Kirkuk.
Erbil and Baghdad are at loggerheads over the Kurdistan Region’s energy reserves: Baghdad says only it has the right to sign oil contracts, but Erbil has ignored the central government and has many oil majors working on exploration and exports.
The energy-rich province of Kirkuk is at the heart of a territorial dispute between Iraq’s Kurds and the Arab central government in Baghdad.