Iraqi Kurdish president, Turkey's Erdogan seek to bolster ties

November 16, 2013 14:50
1 minute read.

The president of Iraqi Kurdistan visited southeastern Turkey for the first time in two decades on Saturday, a trip meant to shore up support for a flagging Kurdish peace process there and bolster Turkey's influence across its troubled southern borders.

Thousands gathered as Masoud Barzani arrived in a long convoy of cars, a police helicopter buzzing overhead, in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast, for a meeting with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Crowds waved green, white and orange Kurdistan flags ahead of ceremonies due to include a performance by Kurdish poet and singer Sivan Perwer, who had fled Turkey in the 1970s, and a mass wedding of 300 couples.

"We will see a historic process in Diyarbakir this weekend," Erdogan said ahead of the visit, billing the event as the "crown" on efforts to end a three-decade insurgency by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants which has cost 40,000 lives.

Kurds, often described as the world's largest stateless ethnic group, number about 30 million, concentrated in parts of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq. While they have had partial autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991, nationalist movements have long been suppressed in Turkey, Syria and Iran.

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