Turkish FM to visit Iraq to further consolidate ties with new administration

Turkish FM to visit Iraq to further consolidate ties with new administration

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Turkish FM to visit Iraq to further consolidate ties with new administration

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will pay a visit to Iraq on Oct. 11-12 and meet officials both in Arbil and Baghdad following the Iraqi elections, in which a new political leadership that has a good record of dialogue with Ankara has taken the seat.

During his two-day official visit, Çavuşoğlu will meet Iraqi President Barham Salih, other Iraqi political leaders and representatives of the Turkmen community and hold high-level meetings in Arbil, the Foreign Ministry said in a written statement.

Turkey-Iraq bilateral relations, bilateral cooperation opportunities—particularly the reconstruction of Iraq, will be on his agenda, the statement added.

Turkey and Iraq have been at odds for the past few years over the presence of Turkish troops in Bashiqa in northern Iraq, where Turkey set up a camp in 2015 to train local Sunni groups and Kurdish peshmerga to fight against ISIL around Mosul.

Steps for normalization were taken over a visit by former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım to Baghdad on January 2017 and the two parties agreed to resolve the issue of the Bashiqa camp through consultations. Ankara had pledged to pull its troops from Bashiqa once the presence of ISIL in Iraq was cleared.

A referendum for independence carried out by Iraqi Kurds brought Ankara and Baghdad to a common position against the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in September 2017 and paved the way for deepening bilateral relations.

“We will from now on only consider the central government in Baghdad as a legitimate interlocutor, not the KRG based in Arbil,” Yıldırım said after the referendum and Turkish officials skipped the de facto capital of Iraqi Kurds for a while during their visits paid to Iraq.

Turkey wants to boost Turkish investment

Turkey is one of Iraq’s largest trading partners and Ankara wants to resume Turkish businesses in the country—particularly in infrastructure, consumer goods, construction and transportation. The Turkish government hopes its companies can play a key role in reconstructing areas in Iraq ruined by the fight against ISIL.

The Turkish government earlier committed to providing $50 million to its neighbor at a donor conference in Kuwait in early 2018 for project support, along with social, cultural and economic projects to be carried out by Turkish state aid agency TİKA.

Ankara also aims to enhance cooperation with Iraq to fight the PKK, which have its base in the northern Kandil Mountains.

Turkey is working with the United States, Iraq, and the KRG in its fight to eliminate the PKK in northern Iraq, Çavuşoğlu said in June.

“There will be four-way cooperation between Turkey, the U.S., Baghdad and Arbil [in the fight against the PKK]. Because the PKK is also the enemy of Arbil,” he said.

Turkey has been carrying out a unilateral military offense against the PKK in northern Iraq, but the joint mechanism has yet to be realized.