- Iraq - Kurds - Mahmoud Abbas
AFP - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Monday met Kurdish regional government leader Massud Barzani in a visit aimed at cementing ties between the two largest stateless peoples in the Middle East.
"We did not need any invitation to visit this brotherly nation and we have felt for a long time that the doors were always open to us without even needing to make an appointment," Abbas said at a joint news conference.
"The honourable president Barzani was not even told of our visit until 24 hours beforehand and he said 'Ahlan wa Sahlan,'" Abbas said, using the common Arabic form of greeting.
Barzani for his part praised Abbas for being the first "president" to visit the autonomous region in northern Iraq.
"We are used to our Palestinian brothers always being in the forefront of aiding our people in the past and present," he said. "This visit will cement the relationship between our two peoples with their similar suffering.
"Just as he is the first president to visit the region we expect and we hope that the Palestinian consulate will be the first consulate to open in Arbil."
Abbas is the president of the Palestinian Authority, an entity created by the 1993 Oslo autonomy accords that governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Abbas's forces were driven out of the Gaza Strip by the Islamist Hamas movement in June 2007.
Barzani is the president of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. The Kurds, numbering between 25 and 35 million people, are concentrated in a region overlapping Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria and have never had a state.
Abbas's trip came one week after he held talks with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, in Baghdad, in what was the first visit to Iraq by a Palestinian leader since the 2003-US led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
Saddam was a vocal patron of the Palestinians under Abbas's predecessor Yasser Arafat but ruled the Kurds with an iron fist, brutally crushing Kurdish rebellions in the 1980s and killing an estimated 182,000 people.