Turkey, Iraq deepen ties in the new era
In an increasingly unstable Middle East, any relationship based on mutual interest and good neighborhood is valuable and significant for the regional actors. Turkey’s deepening ties with its southern neighbor, Iraq, rightly corresponds to this very reality.
Although the history of Turkish-Iraqi ties has had its ups and downs, a recent trend in bilateral relations portrays a two-way will to further enhance political dialogue and cooperation in multiple fields.
It’s in this context that Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is paying his second visit to Iraq in the last seven months. It follows Iraqi President Barham Salih’s visit to Turkey on Jan. 3rd during which the two sides agreed on developing all aspects of their bilateral relations and increasing cooperation in the fight against terrorist organizations.
Turkey regards Iraq as one of the key regional partners whose stability and security are essential for peace in the Middle East. A strong and stable Iraq will continue to serve as a balancing power in the region, will help eradicate terrorist groups and will have a stabilizing role in the global hydrocarbon markets.
Plus, the victory over ISIL has paved the way for the normalization of the oil-rich country with international efforts to boost the reconstruction of the country. For its part, Turkey announced $5 billion in credit and $50 million in projects-based assistance pledge at the Kuwait Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq.
“It will be Turkey that will pledge the strongest support to the reconstruction of Iraq,” Çavuşoğlu said at a press conference in Baghdad over the weekend.
He announced that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will visit Iraq late this year for the convention of a high-level strategic council meeting with Iraqi President Salih and ministers from both sides. Iraqi Prime Minister Adi Adbulmehdi is also expected to come to Turkey in the coming months.
Çavuşoğlu and Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali el-Hekim announced developments in the bilateral ties at the press conference. The fight against the PKK is one of their priorities. Clearing all the Iraqi territories of all sorts of terror organizations, including ISIL and the PKK, is one of the top issues, Çavuşoğlu said, suggesting ways to jointly fight against the PKK.
The Iraqi foreign minister underlined Baghdad’s determination in eradicating all terrorist groups on Iraqi soil.
“The major objective in our bilateral relations is to continue to fight against terrorism and to eliminate it in a way to contribute regional security and stability,” el-Hekim said.
In a sign to further enhance ties, the Iraqi government had given permission to Turkey to reopen general consulates in Mosul and Basra, as well as to launch a consulate in Najaf. Çavuşoğlu said Kırkuk is also in the pipeline.
A second border gate, as usual, was on the agenda with both sides expressing their will to go forward in line with mutual ambition to increase the trade volume from the current $9 billion to $20 billion.
In order to address water problems in Iraq, Turkey will dispatch a senior presidential envoy to Iraq, the Turkish minister said, reassuring Baghdad of its sincerity in dealing with and solving the issue in cooperation. That’s regarded as one of the top confidence-building measures between the two countries.
Energy cooperation constitutes yet another aspect of growing bilateral ties. Iraq recently announced that it can increase the volume of oil it supplies to the global markets in line with the OPEC decisions, especially after the U.S. move to end waivers for eight nations, including Turkey, from Iran sanctions.
Turkey regards Iraq and Russia as two main oil suppliers to replace Iranian crude oil, but existing pipelines with the former require renovation. Its capacity needs to be increased, too. That’s why energy cooperation will constitute a major avenue for a bilateral agenda with Iraq in the coming period.
All these indicate the making of a promising regional alliance between Turkey and Iraq whose impact will surely be beyond these two nations.