Erdogan receives Nechirvan Barzani as special guest

<p style="text-align:left">Nechirvan Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), travelled on Friday to Istanbul, where he was received as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan&amp;rsquo;s &amp;ldquo;special guest&amp;rdquo;, Iraqi Kurdish media network Rudaw reported.

Erdogan announced late on Thursday that the Iraqi Kurdish president would be arriving the following day, calling him his &ldquo;special guest&rdquo; and remarking that the visit would focus on building economic links.

Despite a confrontation in 2017 after the KRG held an independence referendum that was not mandated by Baghdad, Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish administration have a close trade relationship.

Turkey&rsquo;s former prime minister Binali Yildirim, who is running as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate in the Istanbul rerun on Sunday, described Barzani as a well-known figure in Turkey.

The timing of Barzani&rsquo;s visit has raised eyebrows in Turkey, where some have interpreted it as a last-ditch effort by the ruling party to draw Kurdish votes ahead of Sunday&rsquo;s election.

Yildirim lost the first vote by a small margin on March 31 after a campaign by the AKP that directed accusations of &ldquo;terrorism&rdquo; at opposition parties for accepting support from the pro-Kurdish Peoples&rsquo; Democratic Party (HDP), Anadolu reported.

The ruling party has adopted a softer approach in the campaign for the rerun, with Yildirim visiting the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir during the Eid holiday to reach out to Kurdish voters.

Barzani&rsquo;s visit comes a day after unconfirmed reports that Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers&rsquo; Party (PKK), sent a letter urging HDP voters to remain neutral, and not renew their support of the opposition candidate on Sunday.

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