Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu in Iraq, Mattis in Turkey
AA photoTurkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is set to pay an official visit to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Aug. 23, on the same day as U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is set to visit Turkey.
Çavuşoğlu’s visit was planned in order to lay grounds for a scheduled visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Turkey.
Çavuşoğlu is scheduled to meet Iraqi President Fuad Masum, Council of Representatives head Salim al-Jabouri and Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari as well as Iraqi Turkmen politicians, the Foreign Ministry said in a written statement on Aug. 21.
Following his visit to Baghdad, Çavuşoğlu will head to the northern Iraqi city of Arbil to meet Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani.
Iraqi ambassador to Ankara Hisham al-Alawi had previously said that the Iraqi Prime Minister would visit Turkey after resolving a dispute over a Turkish deployment in the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq.
“Positive developments on the ground will be a good way to resolve the existing issues and problems, including the Bashiqa camp issue. It will be a right environment for al-Abadi to come and visit Turkey,” he said on July 27.
Al-Alawi said they were working on a visit by Çavuşoğlu to Iraq and in return the Iraqi Foreign Minister to Turkey to lay grounds for al-Abadi’s visit to Turkey.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım invited his Iraqi counterpart to Turkey during a phone conversation between the two leaders on March 14 for a visit after the end of the Mosul offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Meanwhile, before coming to Turkey, Pentagon chief Mattis held talks in Baghdad on Aug. 22 to show U.S. support for Iraqi forces as they pressed an assault on Tal Afar, ISIL’s last major bastion in the country’s north.
Mattis said he wanted to keep the spotlight on eradicating ISIL, in remarks before going into meetings with al-Abadi and other top officials.
“Right now our focus is on defeating ISIS inside Iraq, restoring Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the US defense secretary said, using an alternative acronym for ISIL.
Iraqi troops, supported by the forces of a U.S.-led international coalition, routed ISIL in Mosul in July after a grueling nine-month fight for Iraq’s second city.
They launched an offensive on Aug. 20 to recapture Tal Afar and Mattis declined to make any predictions on the battle.
“ISIS’s days are certainly numbered, but it’s not over yet and it’s not going to be over anytime soon,” he said.
Iraqi forces had “fought like the dickens in Mosul, (it) cost them over 6,000 wounded, somewhere over 1,200 killed,” he noted.
Yet that comeback restored the confidence of the Iraqi security forces after their shock loss of Mosul to IS in 2014.
Mattis stressed that retaking Mosul would not have happened “without... Abadi’s steady hand” but also thanks to extensive U.S. support.
Mattis had said his discussions in Iraq would focus on the way ahead, including how to keep the country from again politically fragmenting or falling further under Iran’s influence.
A key issue is Iraqi Kurdistan’s plan for an independence referendum on September 25, strongly opposed by the U.S. and Turkey.
Mattis, who is on a five-day swing through Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Ukraine, said he would also talk about reconstruction and resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis driven from their homes and towns by the fighting, especially Mosul.