Ertugrul Ozkok: Ankara and the "Regional Kurdish Government": Nuances are important
Yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Namik Tan declared that Hurriyet's top story, about details from a meeting between Ankara'a Baghdad representative Oguz Celikkol and Kurdish leader Barzani, was wrong. And Tan did not use delicate language in announcing this wrongness. You can read about this in today's Hurriyet. But, let's take a look at the behind the curtains contents of this story. Let's do an analysis of this "denial" of the story, which emerged over two hours from two high level officials from the Foreign Ministry.
For those who didn't read the papers yesterday, a quick reminder:
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has a representative in Baghdad, an experienced and successful diplomat named Oguz Celikkol. Last week, Celikkol was in Baghdad, where he had meetings with some of the top names in the new Iraqi authority. The most interesting of these was with Mesud Barzani, Iraq's "prime minister of the Kurdish region." This meeting could be viewed as Turkey's first official contact with Barzani, following unofficial meetings between him and MIT (National Intelligence Agency) officials.
Reporting on this meeting, our Ankara reporter, Ugur Ergan, wrote that Celikkol had passed the message to Barzani that "Turkey is prepared to recognize all of the elements that your new Iraqi Consitution clarifies and defines following the implementation of the constitution." Which by implication meant that Turkey was prepared to recognize the Kurdish government in Northern Iraq. So when this news was published in yesterday's Hurriyet, it stirred up the dust in Ankara. What was the Ankara administration going to say in response? And so now, I will write about the two statements made on this subject, each within an hour of eachother, and both in the name of Turkey.
Foreign Ministry Namik Tan emerges with the following written statement for the press:
"There was never any message given to Kurdish Democratic Party leader Barzani about Turkey's recognition of any federation within Iraq, or about anything having to do with the federation in Iraq's new constitution. We have not even entered into talks yet on this subject." And of course, because this was written statement, reporters were not given the chance to ask what exactly it was that Celikkol and Barzani discussed during their meeting.
Well, the answer to that unasked question was not long in coming. Now it was 13:34. This time Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul himself appears before reporters, and gives this explanation:
"Nuances in foreign policy are important. Our friends in Iraq have said 'The Iraqi people will decide what kind of Iraq they want.' And for that reason, what Celikkol expressed in his meeting was that we will agree to whatever the Iraqi people want. As it is, after they have made their decision, we have no right to say 'No, your constitution shouldn't be like that, but like this.' That is all that was expresed in the meeting."
There is no difference between what FM Gul explained and what we wrote yesterday, which was that a top level foreign ministry official said that following the implementation of the new Iraqi Constitution, Turkey will have to recognize federations and organizations clarified in the constitution just as the rest of the international community does.
So, the new Iraqi Constitution, which is implemented in four months from now, mentions the area we refer to as Northern Iraq as the "Regional Kurdish Government." And what was it we wrote yesterday in the Hurriyet?
Yes, these are the statements which followed one another in swift succession from the Turkish Foreign Ministry yesterday. The spokesman says "We don't know about any details from the meeting," while the government explains "the nuances are important." I leave you the readers to decide what this all means. I wonder if the entire matter derives for widespread antipathy felt for the expression "Regional Kurdish Government."