Ingmar Karlsson, Sweden's former consul general in İstanbul, has said if Turkey solves its Kurdish problem and grants the Kurds political and cultural rights, a de facto independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq will be less attractive.
“To convert this into reality it is, however, necessary that the EU process [Turkey's accession process into the European Union] acquires new momentum and that EU membership does not seem unattainable for the Kurds in Turkey,” he said and added: “A Turkey in the EU would guarantee Turkey's territorial integrity. The influence of the military over politics would dramatically decrease and a Turkish government without the military pressure would not be so scared of a Kurdish state in its immediate neighborhood.”
Speaking at a roundtable meeting yesterday organized by the Global Political Trends Center (GPoT) at İstanbul Kültür University, Karlsson, known for his efforts to bring Turkey closer to the EU and to promote Turkish-Swedish relations, said the fear of a Kurdish mini-state in northern Iraq is “anachronistic” because of some unsubstantiated assumptions such as the belief that there is a monolithic Kurdish identity in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq; that the Iraqi Kurds would favor reunification with Kurds from Turkey over neighborly relations with Turkey; and that the 4 to 5 million Iraqi Kurds would share their oil resources with the 15 million Turkish Kurds.
Karlsson also said Turkey currently is the most important commercial partner of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq with about 70 percent of all business contracts going to the Turkish companies and approximately 1,200 Turkish companies being established in northern Iraq in April 2007 resulting in “a sort of economical reconciliation.”
Looking at the issue from a Kurdish perspective, Karlsson said Turkey could be the ideal partner for the Kurds in Iraq as it is not a “pariah state” but a NATO member and a candidate country for membership in the EU.
“A sensible Kurdish policy would therefore be not to insist on independence. Being geographically closed off and having hostile neighbors are not the best prerequisites for building up a state and a new society. The states the Kurds are most dependent on, the US and Turkey, would not allow such a development,” he said.
However, Karlsson also stressed that if the Iraqi Kurds are patient about creating an administration and economy of their own, secure their borders and stay away from the conflict in the region, their closest neighbors would not be against their independence.
‘Opposition in Turkey biggest obstacle’
Asked by Today's Zaman how he evaluates Turkey's recent initiative regarding the Kurdish issue, Karlsson, whose seven-year term as consul general ended last year in İstanbul, said he does not follow the issue on a daily basis but said the main problem is the lack of constructive opposition, not only regarding the Kurdish issue but in other issues as well.
Karlsson said strong responsibility lies with the opposition not to destroy the process from the beginning, referring to the harsh stance of the main opposition parties, Republican People's Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).