Turkey, Kurds wary of security vacuum

Aug. 3, 2012 at 12:17 PM

ERBIL, Iraq, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Any effort by violent groups or organizations to exploit a power vacuum in Syria is a common threat to Turkish and Kurdish interests, a joint statement read.

Masoud Barzani, president of the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, met with Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to Erbil to discuss regional issues.

The Turkish military launched recent military drills along its border near Syria ostensibly as a show of force against regional Kurdish militants. Ankara has expressed concern about violence in Syria while at the same time tackling the threat from Kurdish separatists along the border with Iraq.

Both leaders, in a statement issued by the KRG, expressed "grave" concern about the situation in Syria.

"Any attempt to exploit the power vacuum by any violent group or organization will be considered as a common threat, which should be jointly addressed," the statement read.

Davutoglu's visit came amid heightened political tensions in Iraq. Kurdish leaders this week agreed to resume oil exports in an effort to convince Baghdad to settled outstanding payment issues.

Critics of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, including Kurdish leaders, are wary of his grip on power. Ankara is hosting fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Maliki accused the vice president of operating a death squad in Iraq shortly after U.S. forces left the country in December.

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