President Gül heralds new era in Turkish-Iraqi ties

President Gül heralds new era in Turkish-Iraqi ties

President Gül heralds new era in Turkish-Iraqi ties

The shadow of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu falls next to his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari, as the two ministers holds a joint press confrence in Ankara. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Ankara and Baghdad are looking to bury the hatchet following recent tensions, with President Abdullah Gül hailing a new era in ties between the neighbors amid a visit by Iraq’s foreign minister to the Turkish capital.

“As you know, there was a chill in ties with Iraq. Both Turkey and Iraq have realized that this should be eliminated. As you may recall, I had emphasized the importance of Iraq in my [opening] speech of Parliament. There is no clash of interests between the two countries,” President Gül said Oct. 25 in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri, as Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari was visiting the Turkish capital, Ankara.

“Both our Cabinet and the Iraqi side are aware of it. A conflict of interest between Iraq and Turkey is out of the question. We have always supported the territorial integrity and political union of Iraq, and we have always embraced Iraq every time,” Gül said.

In a veiled response to charges that Turkey was playing the sectarian card in Iraq, Gül said Ankara recognized and maintained an equal distance with all segments of Iraqi society.

“If you do embrace a country, you shall embrace all of its citizens in order to have healthy, neighborly relations. We attach huge importance to this,” Gül said. “Thus a new era is beginning. Mutual visits are taking place. I am absolutely pleased.”

It was not only Turkey’s leaders who delivered bold remarks reflecting optimism about the future of relations.

“We agreed to take new steps in order to improve bilateral relations and to open new horizons,” Zebari told a joint press following talks with his counterpart, Ahmet Davutoğlu. “We have turned the old page and opened a new chapter in our relations,” Zebari said.

The Iraqi minister said a new mechanism would be established between the two countries for political consultations and direct communication. “Our official channels and diplomacy channels are open,” he said.

For his part, as seen often when particularly speaking of neighboring countries, Davutoğlu deployed highly emotional language.

“Turkey and Iraq, I am saying this without any exaggeration, have the most powerful infrastructure to develop strategic relations with each other. We have never considered Iraq different from us. We have considered Iraq’s welfare, happiness and peace as our peace and happiness. Iraq is the spine of peace and stability in the Middle East,” Davutoğlu said, arguing that the two years of tension in bilateral ties stemmed from circumstance and was only “temporary.”

“These meetings have been meetings which have been eyed with longing. We may again have different convictions and differences of opinions, but we can produce synergy by discussing and arriving at beneficial conclusions out of it. This meeting is the demonstration of the end of the stagnation and a manifestation showing that the relations will increase at every level in the next term, most of all between the prime ministers,” he added.

Zebari, whose first meeting in Ankara upon his arrival on the evening of Oct. 24 was with Gül, also met with Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek earlier on Oct. 25 and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Both Davutoğlu and Çiçek are expected to pay visits to Baghdad next month. The exact date of an expected visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Turkey will be set through consultations during these visits.