In a region rife with seemingly unsolvable conflicts, one budding relationship is demonstrating that not all hope is lost in the Middle East: Once implacable enemies, Turkey and the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq are forging ever-closer political and economic ties, independent of the Iraqi central government in Baghdad.
The Turkish-Iraqi Kurdish relationship is blossoming despite the failure of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's "Kurdish initiative," an effort to mend relations with Turkey's domestic Kurdish minority, who account for some 20 percent of the Turkish population. The world's largest ethnic group without an independent state of its own, some 20 million Kurds live dispersed across Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria with varying degrees of political and cultural rights.
Over the past year, Erdogan has dropped Turkish opposition to Kurdish self-rule in Iraq, long a pillar of Turkish foreign policy to prevent Turkey's own Kurds from demanding autonomy. Instead, in a realization that Iraqi Kurds can help Turkey secure its southeastern border, Ankara is drawing closer to the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq.