Turkey, northern Iraq boost trade, energy ties

Turkey, northern Iraq boost trade, energy ties

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey, northern Iraq boost trade, energy ties

Turkish President Abdullah Gül (R) meets with KRG Premier Nechirvan Barzani (3rd R) and a delegation in Ankara. DHA Photo

Turkey and the regional government of northern Iraq have taken additional steps to deepen economic and energy ties at a moment when both parties’ relations with Baghdad are strained.

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government of northern Iraq received a high-level reception in Ankara yesterday as he met with President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

“Apart from combating terrorism, a number of economic and trade-related issues have been discussed in a positive climate,” a Turkish diplomatic source familiar with the talks told the Hürriyet Daily News. “Our mutual understanding on the fight against terrorism has been reaffirmed,” sources said, adding that Barzani repeated their readiness to contribute to Turkey’s efforts to fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Kurdish conference

Barzani informed the Turkish side about the preparations for the Kurdish Conference planned for next month in Arbil where prominent Kurdish political groups are expected to call on the PKK to cease armed operations. The PKK, recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the EU, has its headquarters and training camps in northern Iraq, territory under Barzani’s rule.

The two sides have also reviewed ongoing economic relations and explored new ways to increase trade volume. Energy Minister Taner Yıldız was also present during Barzani’s meeting with Davutoğlu. The sale of petro-chemical products and electricity, opening two more border gates and transportation problems have also been revisited, according to sources. Carrying Iraqi natural gas to world markets through Turkey and joint oil and gas explorations in oil-rich northern Iraq have also been discussed between the two sides. “We have seen that there is a vast area of cooperation between the two sides,” a source said. The visit came a month after Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, held talks in Ankara and at a moment when both parties’ relations with the central Iraqi government deteriorated.

Major political groups in Iraq, including powerful Shiite al-Sadr, issued a memorandum to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to take steps to diffuse the tension in the country, which was sparked after an arrest warrant was issued against prominent Sunni leader Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who is still in Turkey. “We have not advised al-Hashemi to return to northern Iraq with [Prime Minster] Barzani,” sources said.