Turkish minister’s Arbil trip gets Baghdad block

Turkish minister’s Arbil trip gets Baghdad block

ARBIL - Hüriryet Daily News
Turkish minister’s Arbil trip gets Baghdad block

Energy Minister Taner Yıldız. AA photo

Energy Minister Taner Yıldız was unable to fly to the northern Iraqi city of Arbil yesterday when the central government issued a last-minute decree seemingly intended to block his visit.

“The central government did not approve, and we landed in Kayseri,” Yıldız told the Hürriyet Daily News after the plane landed in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri. Yıldız had been scheduled to fly to Arbil early yesterday to attend the ministerial closing session of a Kurdistan oil and gas conference that is being held for the second time in Arbil. He attended the first conference last year as well.

However, the Iraqi central government issued a decree yesterday morning, just three hours before the minister’s plane was scheduled to take off, requiring all private planes destined for Arbil first to land in Baghdad. After learning of the new decree, the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad, Yunus Demirer, was barely able to reach the Foreign Ministry official on the plane, which was about to take off, in time to halt the departure. Turkish officials realized at the last minute that despite the diplomatic clearance they had obtained from Baghdad earlier, they did not have permission to fly into Iraqi airspace and go directly to Arbil. After consulting with the Foreign Ministry, the minister decided to land in Kayseri.
 “We will make an overall assessment with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Necirvan Barzani,” Yıldız said, insisting that Turkey’s oil interests in Iraq would not be harmed by this incident and there was no change to the roadmap.

Ankara and Baghdad have been at odds over several issues, including Turkey’s refusal to extradite fugitive Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi – who was sentenced to death by a Baghdad court – the Turkish military presence in Iraq to pursue outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party militants and the oil dispute. Baghdad says Arbil’s oil exports to Turkey without Baghdad’s permission are illegal. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s visit to Kirkuk without informing Baghdad in August also incensed Iraqi authorities and brought already cold ties between Baghdad and Ankara to a new low.

“There is a lack of communication between Turkey and Baghdad over this incident, but we are not doing something wrong,” the energy minister said, adding that he may meet with Baghdad’s Energy Minister Hussain al-Shahristani in Istanbul.

Relations between Baghdad and the KRG have been fraught since the establishment of a new military command covering the northern parts of Iraq and over various other long-running disputes, including how to share the region’s oil wealth.