Turkey, Iraq agree to cooperate closely in anti-terror fight
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan applauded the Iraqi central government for almost clearing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from the country, vowing that Turkey is ready for a joint struggle against “all terrorist groups,” including the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In a statement to the media on Oct. 25 after meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Erdoğan said Ankara is ready to cooperate with Baghdad in the fight against PKK elements in the Qandil Mountains and the Sinjar region of Iraq.
He also said Turkey is ready to give all support to Baghdad as it seeks to reopen a crude oil pipeline from the Kirkuk oilfields to Turkey, through which Iraq stopped sending oil in 2014.
Talks are underway on a possible move to close down Turkey’s border with the autonomous Kurdish region, which last month held a non-binding referendum on independence, which both Turkey and Iraq strongly opposed, Erdoğan noted.
“From the beginning we have always said we support the territorial integrity of Iraq and we will continue [to do so] … I believe we have come to a positive point with the steps we have taken as Turkey, Iran and Iraq,” he said, touching on the measures taken after the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a referendum for independence on Sept. 25.
For his part, al-Abadi said his government will not allow any armed groups other than official forces operate on Iraqi lands.
“Our task is, of course, to ensure the territorial integrity of Iraq and to fight against all terrorist organizations that threaten not only Iraq, but the region,” he stated.
The Iraqi prime minister also said they discussed a project that could help stabilize in the region and stressed that his government gives importance to bilateral relations between Iraq and Turkey.
“We don’t want any country to intervene in our personal interests. We must be a source of hope to our young people. We have to win over our young people, who make up 60 percent of our region, by offering job opportunities to them,” al-Abadi added.
His visit to Ankara comes amid a call for “dialogue” with the Baghdad government from the KRG, which is under pressure from its neighbors after the referendum move.
During al-Abadi’s visit Iraqi and Turkish officials reviewed recent developments regarding the KRG’s independence bid and discussed joint action that could be taken, while also exploring how to improve bilateral relations in economy, energy and transportation.
The Iraqi prime minister signaled that Baghdad wants to increase the volume of oil it sells to Turkey via an existing pipeline in order to further pressure the KRG. The two countries also discussed the transfer of the İbrahim Khalil border gate to the central government from the KRG.
KRG President Masoud Barzani had late on Oct. 24 suggested freezing the results of the Sept. 25 independence referendum and launching talks with Baghdad.
In response, Turkish Prime Minister Yıldırım said Barzani “should have listened to Turkey’s advice.”
“Why did you insist on this mistake if that would be the point you would arrive at?” said Yıldırım in a statement early Oct. 25, though Turkey’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik described Barzani’s suggestion as a “tactical move.”
Relations between Ankara and Baghdad were strained last year over Turkey’s presence at a military base in northern Iraq.
Ankara maintained an estimated 2,000 troops in Iraq, around 500 of whom were in the northern Bashiqa camp training local fighters last year ahead of the successful bid to free Mosul from the grip of ISIL.
However, since the KRG independence vote – strongly opposed by both Turkey and Iraq - Turkey has given its backing to Baghdad by threatening to close its border with the KRG and apply economic sanctions.
President Erdoğan said on Oct. 25 that Ankara was ready to give all support to Baghdad as it seeks to reopen a crude oil pipeline from the Kirkuk oilfields to Turkey, through which Iraq stopped sending oil in 2014.
In a statement to media after meeting al-Abadi, Erdoğan said talks were underway on a possible move to close down Turkey’s border with the autonomous Kurdish region.
“From the beginning we have always expressed that we support the territorial integrity of Iraq. We will continue [to do so] … I believe we have come to a positive point with the steps we have taken as Turkey, Iran and Iraq,” Erdoğan said, elaborating on measures taken KRG referendum.
He also praised the Iraqi central government for almost entirely clearing ISIL from the country, while warning that the PKK could see this as an opportunity.
Erdoğan thus said Turkey was ready to cooperate with Baghdad in order to fight against PKK elements in Iraq, such as in the Qandil Mountains and Sinjar region.