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
(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
, Iran, Syria
. While they have had partial
autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan
since 1991, nationalist movements
have long been suppressed in Turkey