Turkey and Iraq seek to repair strained ties

Turkey and Iraq seek to repair strained ties

Turkey and Iraq seek to repair strained ties

Volkan Bozkır (L), chairman of the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee, meets Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad. DHA photo

The Turkish and Iraqi governments are currently bidding to improve bilateral ties with a series of high-level visits.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari is expected to arrive in Ankara on Oct. 25 to conduct a series of meetings with Turkish officials, including his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu, according to announcements made following Zebari’s talks yesterday with a visiting Turkish delegation, headed by the chairman of Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee, Volkan Bozkır.

The details of Zebari’s visit were clarified during the delegation’s time in Iraq, though the itinerary is reportedly still being arranged. A one-on-one meeting with Davutoğlu, however, does seem likely, Anadolu Agency reported.

Bozkır not only met with high-level Iraqi officials, but also extended an invite from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to his Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki, who is now expected to visit Turkey soon. Bozkır also said Turkish Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu were expected to arrive in Iraq soon to discuss bilateral relations.

Bozkır told reporters that everyone was looking forward to al-Maliki’s expected visit, adding that historic and social elements connected the two nations, and that deputies and lawmakers therefore had a responsibility to ensure such “love and closeness.”

During the Turkish delegation’s meetings, both sides expressed willingness for the development and normalization of relations on the political and economic levels, according to an official statement posted on the Iraqi Foreign Ministry website.

The continuation of the civil war in Syria came up as a particular focus of concern in the talks. Bozkır also held talks with Iraqi Parliamentary Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi during his time in Baghdad.

Tensions between the two countries have soured considerably in recent years due to oil agreements signed by Turkey with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq, without the consent of the central Iraqi government. President Abdullah Gül also recently met with Iraqi Vice President Hudayr al-Huzai in New York on the sidelines of U.N. General Assembly meetings.

In northern Iraq, the Kurds now have a three-province autonomous region with its own government, security forces, flag and borders. Although Iraqi Kurdistan and the federal government in Baghdad moved to reduce high tensions earlier this year, they are still at odds over a number of issues.

Iraqi Kurdistan has sought to establish a pipeline that would give it access to international energy markets, has sent crude across the border to neighboring Turkey, and has signed deals with a number of foreign energy firms. Iraq, however, has responded by vowing to take legal action against the deals in a bid to halt crude oil sales to Turkey.