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    President’s denial of "Kurdistan" reference sparks debate in Turkey

    Hurriyet Daily News
    25.03.2009 - 11:32 | Son Güncelleme:

    The Turkish president's denial of using the term "Kurdistan" while describing the administration in northern Iraq created confusion with all but one of the journalist traveling with Abdullah Gul insisting he used the term "Kurdistan."

    Gul paid a two-day landmark visit to Iraq on Monday, the first Turkish head of state to visit Iraq in 33 years, at a time of changing relations between Turkey and northern Iraq amid calls for increased efforts to eradicate the presence of the terror organization PKK. 

    Turkish newspapers reported on Tuesday that Gul had become the first Turkish official to define the northern Iraqi administration as "Kurdistan" when he told reporters during the flight to the neighboring country that the "Kurdistan regional administration" in Iraq was the main actor in efforts to end terror activities against Turkish territory.


    Turkey does not recognize the semi-autonomous administration in northern Iraq by its official name due to concerns that doing so would eventually lead to the establishment of an independent Kurdish state involving Turkish territory.


    Seven Turkish journalists of the eight traveling with Gul say he used the term "Kurdistan," while Milliyet daily columnist Hasan Cemal defended a different version.


    Cemal wrote in his column Wednesday that Gul had asked journalists how to refer to the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration in northern Iraq. "We replied: 'Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Administration'." Then Gul said, "Yes it is," without directly using the term "Kurdistan", Cemal wrote.


    Cemal is the only journalist claiming that Gul did not directly use the term “Kurdistan” in reference to the regional administration in northern Iraq, while the others, including editor-in-chief of Sabah daily Erdal Safak, Radikal daily’s Ankara bureau chief, and CNNTurk editor-in-chief Mehmet Ali Birand, included the remark in his quotes.


    Late on Tuesday, Gul told reporters at a press conference in Ankara that although it is a reality of Iraq, he did not use the term Kurdistan.


    "The country that attaches the greatest importance to Iraq's unity and integrity is Turkey. There is a regional Kurdish administration in the north of Iraq according to the Iraqi constitution. This is what I had said. I held a meeting with the (regional administration's) prime minister," Gul told reporters at a press conference in Ankara late on Tuesday.






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