Turkey Concerned With Russia’s Kurdish Policy

Tug-of-war between Russia and Turkey.

Rosneft, Russia’s main oil company, last week made a agreement “to take control of 60% of a central oil pipeline in northern Iraq and to increase its investments in the region to $3.5 billion.”

Turkey does not want the Kurds in Syria linking up with Iraqi Kurdistan and controlling large areas of northern Syria; then encouraging the ethnic Kurdish in Turkey to follow suit.

Turkey is gloating over the humiliating defeat of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters in Kirkuk by forces attached to Baghdad following the independence referendum held by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Sept. 25.

US and European opposition to the referendum in the name of preserving Iraq’s unity also pleased Ankara. Russia’s ambivalent position, however, was noted with silent disapproval.

Following the referendum, Moscow underscored its “unwavering commitment to the sovereignty, unity and integrity” of Iraq, according to a press statement issued by the Foreign Ministry. Moscow also added, however, that it “respects the national aspirations of the Kurds,” which is not what Ankara wanted to hear.

Speaking to the Kurdish daily Rudaw a few weeks before the referendum, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, “The desires and legal goals of the Kurds must be fulfilled like that of all other peoples.”

He added for good measure that the Kurds should “express their aspirations through a peaceful mechanism,” and that the goals of the referendum should also be “done peacefully … taking into account the view of Iraq’s neighbors.”

The key issue for Ankara, despite Moscow’s “unwavering commitment” to the unity of Iraq, is that Russia is not opposed to Kurdish political aspirations. Any form of self-rule, even under a federal or confederal system, is seen as a threat by Turkey, which fears the effect it will have on its restive Kurds.

Another disturbing development for Ankara was the agreement that Rosneft, Russia’s main oil company, concluded with the KRG last week to take control of 60% of a central oil pipeline in northern Iraq and to increase its investments in the region to $3.5 billion. Al-Monitor

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