Iraq may use force against KRG for control of border: Iraqi ambassador

Iraq may use force against KRG for control of border: Iraqi ambassador

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Iraq may use force against KRG for control of border: Iraqi ambassador

The Iraqi government may use force against the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to take control of border gates in northern Iraq, Iraqi Ambassador to Turkey Hisham al-Alawi said on Oct. 6.

The Baghdad government has appointed 41 new employees to run the Habur border gate with Turkey and has allocated “a relevant force to be used if required to control the gate,” al-Alawi told reporters.

He specifically referred to joint military exercises by Iraqi and Turkish forces on the border, across from the Habur gate, saying the exercises were part of “preparation for the control of the gate.”

Al-Alawi announced a planned visit by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım to Baghdad in the near future in order to discuss the recent independence referendum held by the Iraqi Kurds and relations between Ankara and Baghdad, amid rapprochement between the two prompted by the KRG referendum.

Prime Minister Yıldırım also on Oct. 6 confirmed that his Iraqi counterpart, Haider al-Abadi, had invited him to visit Baghdad in the wake of the Sept. 25 referendum in northern Iraq.

 ‘Win-win on energy’

 Ambassador al-Alawi recalled that the Baghdad government was not happy with the export of northern Iraqi oil reserves to world markets through direct agreements with the KRG, as Ankara had pursued in recent years before tension over the referendum erupted.

“We could instead use the energy area, which has been problematic, to create a positive environment for a win-win situation,” he said

“We have talked about this particular issue in detail. There are some practical ideas to explore when the two prime ministers meet soon. We are looking for a win-win situation where Iraq will be happy because the export of oil and gas from anywhere in Iraq is transparent and taking place under the authority of the central government. All revenues that go to the central budget will be distributed fairly,” he added.

Two new draft memorandums of understanding have been prepared with the Ministry of Energy, al-Alawi said.

“We hope the text will be finalized very soon and is signed as soon as possible. They represent an umbrella for enhancing cooperation in the fields of oil and gas, and in the fields of electricity and renewable energy,” he stated.

Oil revenues being discussed

Government officials on Oct. 5 discussed the sensitive issue of oil revenues via Halkbank in the export of KRG energy resources via Turkey, and the issue will also be discussed during Yıldırım’s planned visit to Baghdad, al-Alawi noted.

The Iraqi central government and parliament have repeatedly called on countries around the world to avoid importing oil and gas from the KRG without the supervision of Iraqi central government and the relevant ministry of oil, he stressed.

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also referred to the importance of this. In my view, this particular issue is the most important single element able to put extra pressure on [KRG President Masoud] Barzani and his team,” al-Alawi said.

New border gate to bypass KRG

Meanwhile, Ankara and Baghdad are currently talking about establishing a new border gate from Turkey to Iraq in order to bypass the KRG. Al-Alawi said this gate would be “directly from southern Turkey to Mosul, near the point where the Tiger River goes into Iraq, near the point of Fishkhabur.”

Yıldırım recently stated that Ankara would respect the decision if Baghdad decides to close all borders, but Turkey’s offer is to activate the Ovakoy border gate, located west of the Habur border gate in Turkey’s southeastern Şırnak province and close to Fiskhabur.

Bashiqa problem

In addition, Ambassador al-Alawi reiterated Baghdad’s call to find a solution to the issue of Turkish troops deployed at a military camp in the Bashiqa region of Iraq, which had increased tension between Ankara and Baghdad last year. The two agreed principle to launch negotiations to clarify the status of the camp, but the central government in Iraq expects complete withdrawal.

“We were expecting the Turkish government to resolve this issue after the successful operation for the liberation of Mosul and Telafar,” al-Alawi stated, referring to the agreement to start talks for Bashiqa after the offensive against ISIL ended in the Ninova region.

Baghdad will tie any future security and military cooperation with Ankara - including potential cooperation against the PKK, ISIL members trying to cross to Turkey, and the security of pipelines and border gates - to the resolution of Bashiqa issue, al-Alawi stressed.

“The visit of the Iraqi army commander to Turkey was a clear indication of the readiness of the Iraqi government to enhance security and military intelligence cooperation with Turkey, subject to resolving the Bashiqa camp issue,” he added.