Turkey, Iraq discuss security, economy in key meeting
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi paid a one-day official visit to Ankara on Dec.17 to discuss with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan economy and security matters, including combatting the PKK and ISIL, the re-construction of Iraq, trade and energy.
Al-Kadhimi visited the Atatürk Mausoleum and then had a tete-a-tete meeting with Erdoğan after an official ceremony. Al-Kadhimi took the office in May and paid his first visit to Turkey upon the invitation of Erdoğan.
Enhancing joint efforts against terrorism was one of the top issues on the agenda of Turkish and Iraqi officials. Turkey has long been urging the Iraqi authorities about the PKK’s use of the region as a new headquarters, as the terror organization is no longer feeling safe in the Qandil Mountain region of Northern Iraq where they have their main headquarters and training camps.
The PKK, which has its headquarters and training camps in different parts of Northern Iraq, is designated as a terror organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
The central government in Baghdad and the regional government in Arbil have launched a joint effort to wipe out the PKK and other terror groups from the Sinjar region of Iraq.
The Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced in early October an agreement to eradicate the terrorist groups in Sinjar, a move welcomed by Turkey. Turkey offered help to Baghdad and Arbil to clear the area from the PKK as well as ISIL, which has a small presence in the area.
The PKK managed to establish a foothold in Sinjar in mid-2014 under the pretext of protecting the local Yazidi community from ISIL. Around 450,000 Yazidis escaped Sinjar after the ISIL group took control of the region in mid-2014.
The Turkish and Iraqi sides evaluated the visa issue between the two neighbors, where the two had visa-free access once, but halted since the beginning of ISIL threats. An agreement was signed between the two countries in 2009 regarding the removal of visas. A working group to restore visa liberalization is being planned to be established.
An agreement on the avoidance of double taxation was expected to be signed between the two countries late Dec.17 after the Daily News went to print.
The issue of the opening of border crossings Ovaköy’de as a second border crossing between Turkey and Iraq has long been discussed.
Ahead of Al-Kadhimi’s visit, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein came to Ankara for the preparation of the prime minister’s visit and had met with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşğlu on Dec. 16
At a joint press conference, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey will lend necessary support to Iraq in its efforts to clear the country from the PKK.
Hussein, for his part, said they discussed the regional developments as well. “Our policy concerning Syria is well-known. We always work for the stability of Iraq. Whatever occurs in Syria impacts Iraq,” he stated.