The leader of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government, Masoud Barzani, has lent his full support to the Turkish government's peace bid during a joint rally with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Diyarbakir today, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
"My request from my Kurdish and Turkish brothers is to support the peace project. I want to tell them that we support the peace process with all our force," Barzani told the crowd during his first official visit to southeastern Turkey.
"The time in the Middle East for living together has come. We can carry our people to happier days if we follow the methods of living together. Wars have been tried. The days when the blood of a young Turkish man was spilled by a Kurdish youth or the blood of a young Kurdish man was spilled by a Turkish youth are over," Barzani said.
The Iraqi Kurdish leader finished his speech with a few words in Turkish. "Long live Turkish and Kurdish brotherhood. Long live peace. Long live freedom," Barzani said.
A new Turkey 'where prisons empty'
For his part, Erdogan begun his speech by commemorating Barzani's father, a religious leader, who found refuge in the eastern district of Shemdinli district 81 years ago after villages in northern Iraq were bombed.
"Just like your father and your uncles, welcome to the Turkish Republic, the land of your brothers," Erdogan said, addressing Barzani. Erdogan also welcomed Kurdish musician Shivan Perwer and cited Ahmet Kaya, another iconic Kurdish musician who died 13 years ago to the day in forced exile after being demonized in Turkey for announcing that he would include a Kurdish song in a new album.
"I wish one person could have been here too, another voice of this land could have been among us," Erdogan said, reciting the lyrics of one of Kaya's most known - and saddest - folk tunes, "Diyarbakir Turkusu."
Erdogan also pronounced the word "Kurdistan" for the first time as he greeted the people "of the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq."
During his speech, Erdogan stressed the difficulties in and resistance to solving the Kurdish issue and asked the Kurdish population to support the ongoing resolution process.
"We will witness a new Turkey where those in the mountains come down, the prisons empty and the 76 million [citizens of Turkey] become one," Erdogan said, hinting to a general amnesty demaned by many Kurdish groups, including the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).
"In Diyarbakir, the city of brotherhood, we are brothers from time immemorial. We are not fellow travelers, we also share the same faith," Erdogan said.
"What can cause more indignation than a mother unable to speak with her child in her own language? I know how Perwer's records were hidden and listened to in secret. I have heard a lot stories of unsolved murders or exile," Erdogan said, vowing the government's determination to solve the Kurdish issue.
"I have one request. If you support this process, believe me, it will become bigger. If you look after this spring, it will become permanent. If Diyarbakir looks after this hope, the little trees will become sycamores. Don't forget, words are more effective than guns, politics are more effective than violence," Erdogan said, stressing that the Kurdish population should feel like it is part of the republic.
"This republic belongs as much as to Diyarbakir residents as to İzmir, Istanbul or Ankara residents. This state is your state. This flag is your flag. You are true citizens of this country, the owner of this state. Nobody can treat you as a second-class citizen, Nobody can assimilate you," he said.
Today's visit is expected to revive a stalled Kurdish peace process and deal with the latest developments in northern Syria, were the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) has announced the establishment of a constituent assembly as a "first step" toward an autonomous administration. Both Ankara and Arbil have criticized the stance of the Syrian Kurdish organization, which is ideologically close to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Earlier, Erdogan made his first visit in 11 years to Mayor Osman Baydemir at the Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality. Prominent politicians such as independent Diyarbakir deputy Leyla Zana, independent Mardin deputy Ahmet Turk and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) lawmakers Sirri Sakik and Altan Tan also participated in the meeting.
Baydemir said the meeting had been very fruitful. "This meeting is contributing to peace based on the brotherhood law which is needed by us all."
Baydemir, who will not run in the upcoming local elections, added that he joked with Erdogan on his project ideas. "I said we could have asked him for ideas for projects had he come earlier," Baydemir told reporters.
Erdogan then visited the governor's office, where he was joined by Barzani and Perwer, who came this morning with a convoy from Arbil.
Deputy Prime Ministers Bulent Arinch, Beshir atalay and Bekir Bozdag joined Erdogan during the visit. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who returned from Myanmar yesterday, was also in Diyarbakir after postponing a visit to Washington that was due to start today.