Turkey, Iraq seek new measures against ISIL
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi in Ankara on Dec. 25. AFP PhotoTurkey and Iraq have begun a new round of talks to seek additional measures for the elimination of the threat posed to the region by extremist Islamists as Baghdad requested more military and intelligence assistance from Turkey, including the delivery of weapons.
Joint potential moves against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) were discussed during a High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council meeting that took place in Ankara on Dec. 25 under the leadership of the two prime ministers, Ahmet Davutoğlu and Haider al-Abadi, and with the participation of key ministers in a show of the beginning of a new era in bilateral ties.
We are currently providing military training to Peshmergas in northern Iraq in their fight against Daesh [the Arabic acronym of the ISIL]. But we are open to any kind of ideas. We are ready to provide any kind of support we can give to Iraq,” Davutoğlu told reporters at a joint press conference with al-Abadi after lengthy talks. “Our defense ministers and security institutions have held detailed talks today and will continue to work over this issue.”
Al-Abadi thanked Turkey for its cooperation in Iraq’s fight against ISIL, which controls some parts of the country, but underlined that they were in need of military training and intelligence assistance. He said he submitted a list of demands from Turkey during the talks in Ankara.
“ISIL is not a threat only to Iraq and to Turkey but to the entire region and to the world. Therefore, the fight against ISIL requires international cooperation. We are in expectation of cooperation from all neighboring countries,” he said. Al-Abadi said Iraqi security forces accompanied with Kurdish Peshmerga had begun to push back ISIL forces in various parts of the country.
Upon a question about foreign fighters flocking into Iraq to join ISIL, Davutoğlu recalled Turkey’s principle of not allowing any foreign fighters to maintain a presence in the region either with ISIL or the government of Bashar al-Assad. “Foreign fighters should not be in Iraq and Syria. Syria should be closed to foreign fighters. Syria belongs to the Syrian people as Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people. No foreign powers should be in either countries,” Davutoğlu said.
Al-Abadi drew the attention to the sectarian polarization in the Middle East and called on Turkey to joint take measures against it.
Iraqi oil to be exported via Turkey
The two prime ministers also talked about economic and energy cooperation between the two countries, with al-Abadi stressing that Baghdad was ready to export its oil to the world markets via Turkey’s Ceyhan port. “We want to export our oil via Turkey. The improvement of our bilateral relations is not only to the interest of Turkey and Iraq but also in the interest of our region. We want to deepen our cooperation in every field: the economy, transportation, energy, military, trade, et cetera.”
Davutoğlu, too, hailed the expanding scope of bilateral ties with Iraq and described al-Abadi’s visit to Turkey as a historic one. “With the improvement of security conditions in Iraq, we believe our trade volume will increase. The investment of Turkish companies in Iraq over the years is around $21 billion and I believe we will do our best for the reconstruction of Iraq,” he said. The two countries have discussed ways to increase the trade volume from the current $12 billion to $30 billion to 40 billion.
‘The new page in ties’
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, too, highlighted the new era in bilateral ties as the opening of a new page, recalling that Ankara-Baghdad political relations had almost been suspended during the previous Iraqi government led by Nouri al-Maliki.
“Everything was problematic during the al-Maliki term because the al-Maliki administration regarded all issues only from a sectarian perspective and that caused division in the country,” Çavuşoğlu told TRT in an interview just before the council meeting. Recalling that Turkey urged the al-Maliki government not to push for sectarian policies, Çavuşoğlu said: “Iraqi people are our brothers. All [Iraqis] are equal to us. And we said al-Maliki’s policies were wrong.”
Everybody understood after four years, he said. “Even Iran understood. Shiites in Iraq understood and then everybody came to our position. It was the Iraqi people who most wanted this change,” the Turkish foreign minister added.
The 48 agreements that have been signed between Turkey and Iraq during the al-Maliki term were not approved by the Iraqi Parliament, Çavuşoğlu said. “Now the cold era is over. We have brought a new momentum to our ties. We will continue to give all kinds of support to Iraq.”
Al-Abadi visits Anıtkabir
In his first visit to Ankara as Iraqi prime minister, al-Abadi also visited the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern republic. “Iraq comprehends that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, as one of the prominent figures of the modern Turkey and his great influence on the modern history of Turkey, a brotherly and neighboring country. Turkey has made great progress in the fields of politics, economy and industry. We, as the two Muslim countries, want the further strengthening of Turkey-Iraq relations. That will be to the interest of both brotherly countries,” he wrote in the mausoleum’s guestbook.