Fazil Mirani, secretary of the KDP politburo, speaks to reporters on the sidelines of the AKP congress in Ankara, August 18, 2018. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) officials accepted an invitation to the Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s sixth congress on Saturday.
The invite is another sign of improving Erbil-Ankara relations, yet the KDP’s offices in the Turkish capital remain shuttered months after the Kurdistan independence referendum sparked a diplomatic spat which saw them closed.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the congress, KDP officials said theirs was the only Kurdish party invited to the AKP congress in Ankara.
“Turkey is an important country not only for us, but the Middle East as a whole,” said Fazil Mirani, secretary of the KDP politburo.
Although relations stumbled after the independence referendum, “we sustained our trade and economic relations with each other,” he added.
Leaders from 52 countries were invited to attend the AKP congress on August 18.
Mirani praised the role KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani – deputy president of the KDP – for “bridging relations” between Ankara and Erbil.
In response to the independence vote, Turkey shut down the KDP’s office in Ankara.
“Before we took part in the AKP congress, we sent a message to them saying we do not conditionally take part in the congress by demanding the opening of the KDP office, but said if you put yourselves in our shoes and take part in our congress while your office is closed, what would your feeling be?” said Mirani.
He said they received a positive response from AKP officials, who said they would deliver their concerns to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and relevant authorities.
Prime Minister Barzani will visit Turkey again after the congress. “This problem will be addressed in talks with Erdogan,” Mirani said.
The KDP is the largest party in the Kurdistan Region with 38 seats in the Kurdish legislature, followed by Gorran’s 24. The party also secured 25 seats in Iraq’s May 12 parliamentary election, emerging as the largest Kurdistani party in Iraq (as other parties ran as lists) and the Kurdistan Region.
Turkey maintains rocky relations with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the dominant party in Sulaimani province, after Ankara accused it of “helping” the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Ankara has refused to reopen its airspace to flights to and from Sulaimani International Airport – imposing the embargo following the independence referendum. The same embargo on Erbil was lifted in March.
Ankara expelled the PUK’s representative to Turkey in August 2017 after the PKK captured two Turkish intelligence agents in Sulaimani province.
Relations between Erbil and Ankara have gradually improved since the independence referendum. PM Barzani even attended Erdogan’s inauguration in July.
Turkey is keen to foster good relations with its neighbors and allies amid a worsening diplomatic spat with the US, criticism of its foreign policy aims, and a spiraling currency crisis.