Ankara and Baghdad to focus on positive agenda

Ankara and Baghdad to focus on positive agenda

Sevil Erkuş / Gizem Karakış - ANKARA
Ankara and Baghdad to focus on positive agenda

DHA photo

Ankara and Baghdad have decided to focus on a positive agenda instead of disagreeing during a visit on Jan. 7-8 that aims to overcome earlier tensions and find momentum in areas of potential cooperation. 

Accordingly, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his Iraqi counterpart, Haider al-Abadi, will state a joint declaration which will highlight cooperation in energy and trade following a third meeting of the Turkey-Iraq High Level Strategic Cooperation Council. 

A Turkish delegation visited Baghdad this week and proposed that the Bashiqa military camp, which has caused tension since 2015 because Turkey deployed hundreds of troops to train local Sunni fighters, be named as a training center for anti-ISIL coalition forces under the monitoring of Baghdad.
“Consider that the camp is yours and that it has been allocated for the use of a coalition member,” a Turkish delegation member told Iraqi interlocutors, said the official.

“Our soldiers in Bashiqa and our presence there has never aimed at Iraq’s sovereignty. We will say this in the meeting,” Yıldırım said.

Ankara also proposed renegotiating a deal for the Bashiqa camp one year later, a Turkish official, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Hürriyet Daily Hews.

Turkey has pledged to withdraw its soldiers from Iraq when the threat posed by ISIL is eliminated. Iraq earlier proposed that Turkey put the camp under the control of Baghdad, but Ankara is concerned about security issues.

The issue will be part of discussions between Yıldırım and al-Abadi, the official said.

However, al-Abadi asked for the inclusion of a remark in the joint declaration which will ease his positon in front of the Iraqi public. Al-Abadi wants to include an expression which states, “Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) elements will leave Iraq when their function is completed.” 

The Turkish side has repeatedly reiterated that it will withdraw its troops when ISIL is defeated in Iraq. But Ankara is not willing to include any phrase addressing the Bashiqa issue in the joint declaration, “but the political leaders will say the last word,” said the official. 

Iraq wants loan from Turkey 

Iraq was once one of Turkey’s most important trading partners, but there has been a significant decrease in bilateral trade volume due to recent developments. Baghdad wishes to obtain loans from Ankara, while Iraq also says it expects Turkey and Turkish business leaders to invest in the country. 

However, new investments do not seem realistic in the near term due to Turkish investors’ 5.4 billion dollars in receivables from Iraq, as well as security concerns.
The parties will discuss the marketing of Iraqi energy resources through Turkey in talks with Energy Minister Berat Albayrak during the visit. 

Gülen schools on agenda

There are nine schools of the Gülen community under the control of the Iraqi central government. Iraq has not yet taken an initiative in these schools, but it is expected that they will deport the teachers in the near future. Some time ago, the Maarif Foundation delegation visited Baghdad and promised support for education, according to the official.

A call by al-Abadi on outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) elements to leave the Sinjar region in northern Iraq was also welcomed in Ankara. Under the security agreement negotiated between Ankara and Baghdad, the Iraqi side has proposed resuming a tripartite mechanism between Turkey, Iraq and the United States for the coordination of the struggle against the PKK.

Share of intelligence info over ISIL members

Iraq wants Turkey to increase humanitarian aid for its 3.4 million citizens who have been displaced due to threat posed by ISIL. In this context, Turkish aid officials will also participate in the visit.

Ankara and Baghdad also agreed to share a list of ISIL suspects through security authorities. Iraq has also demanded military and police training and intelligence support from Turkey.

Yıldırım will also pay a visit to Arbil and hold discussions with Iraqi Kurdish leaders on the fight against ISIL, the retreat of PKK from Sinjar and economic relations.

Turkish PM: Presence in Bashiqa not aimed at Iraq’s sovereignty

Answering questions about the agenda of the scheduled Iraq visit, Yıldırım said they were aiming to convey that the presence of Turkish troops in Bashiqa did not target the territorial sovereignty of Iraq.

Noting that mutual relations with Iraq had been tense because of the events in the region over the past 2.5 years, Yıldırım said the Turkish government aimed to develop good relations with Baghdad.

“Within this context, in our Iraq meeting, we will discuss strengthening good neighborly relations between Turkey and Iraq, compensating for economic losses due to previous years, increasing cooperation and improving bilateral trade by mutual investments,” he said.

“We will discuss the prevention of PKK attacks to Turkey from Iraqi territory which have been a trouble for Turkey for years, in a framework of respect for the territorial integrity of the two countries,” he said, adding that mutual investment and trade would be priority subjects in the meeting.