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

The president of IraqiKurdistan visited southeastern Turkey for the first time in twodecades on Saturday, a trip meant to shore up support for aflagging Kurdish peace process there and bolster Turkey'sinfluence across its troubled southern borders.

Thousands gathered as Masoud Barzani arrived in a longconvoy of cars, a police helicopter buzzing overhead, inDiyarbakir, the main city in Turkey's Kurdish-dominatedsoutheast, for a meeting with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Crowds waved green, white and orange Kurdistan flags aheadof ceremonies due to include a performance by Kurdish poet andsinger Sivan Perwer, who had fled Turkey in the 1970s, and amass 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 KurdistanWorkers Party (PKK) militants which has cost 40,000 lives.

Kurds, often described as the world's largest statelessethnic group, number about 30 million, concentrated in parts ofTurkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq. While they have had partialautonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991, nationalist movementshave long been suppressed in Turkey, Syria and Iran.

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