May 1, 2008 / 5:05 PM / 11 years ago

Turk official meets Iraqi president, Kurd leaders

By Wisam Mohammed

BAGHDAD, May 1 (Reuters) - The chief foreign policy adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan met the leader of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region on Thursday, the first direct high level contact between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish region.

The Turkish envoy, Ahmet Davutoglu, met Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani before separately meeting Nerchivan Barzani, Iraqi officials said.

"This is the first time a meeting has taken place between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan government," Falah Mustafa, foreign policy chief in the Kurdish regional government, told Reuters.

"This is a positive and correct step. We discussed all of the political and economic issues and we agreed to hold further meetings in the future."

Asked if they discussed the presence of PKK Kurdish separatist guerrillas in northern Iraq, Mustafa said: "Of course we discussed it, but only in general terms, not in specifics. And we agreed to find a peaceful solution."

Turkey has had fraught relations with Iraq’s Kurdish region because it says PKK Kurdish separatist rebels shelter there.

Turkish war planes have bombed the Iraqi side of the border in the past week, a move which Iraq has called "unfortunate". Turkish troops made a big incursion across the border in February.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who hosted the meeting, said he was pleased it had taken place. "The two delegations met and they discussed mutual relations between the two sides and studied the problems and anxiety which have coloured relations between them in the past," a statement from Talabani’s office said.

"The two sides have found the necessary mechanism to overcome these problems and hurdles which hinders the development of the relationship between the two sides."

Talabani, himself a Kurd, visited Turkey in early March in an effort to reduce tension between the two countries. (writing by Peter Graff; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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