Turkish PM to visit Baghdad, Arbil
ANKARAPrime Minister Binali Yıldırım will visit Iraq from Jan. 5 to 7 in a bid to settle ties after months of talks between diplomats aiming to resolve the crisis that emerged over Turkey’s deployment of troops in the Bashiqa military camp in northern Iraq.
Yıldırım also plans to visit Arbil in order to hold talks with Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials, who recently vowed to take action against outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) elements in the Sinjar region.
“Our prime minister will go to Iraq on Thursday in order to open a new page [in relations] with the Baghdad government,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting on Jan 2.
Yıldırım is expected to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in the Iraqi capital before moving to Arbil, where he will also meet KRG President Massoud Barzani.
Yıldırım’s visit was announced last week by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who held a lengthy phone conversation with al-Abadi.
Ties between Iraq and Turkey soured after Baghdad condemned the latter’s establishment of a military camp at Bashiqa, near Mosul, to train local Sunni groups against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
An unspecified number of Turkish troops in the Bashiqa camp outside ISIL-controlled Mosul in northern Iraq were involved in training Iraqi fighters who plan to recapture the city.
Turkey and Iraq summoned their respective ambassadors on Oct. 5 amid bitter verbal exchanges regarding Turkish troops in the Bashiqa region of Mosul.
Ankara approached Baghdad to restore ties, with a visiting Turkish delegation presenting a draft to Iraqi officials in Baghdad on Oct. 17.
Turkey and Iraq were negotiating on a five or six-point agreement to clarify the current status and future of Turkish troops at the Bashiqa military camp. One option was that the parties could implement the consensus under a modus vivendi without a written accord.
KRG and Turkey pressure PKK to retreat in Sinjar
Meanwhile, back on Dec. 24 KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said military force “may be an option” to fight the presence of the PKK in the Sinjar district near Mosul in northern Iraq, a region home to around 4,000 Yazidis.
The KRG is worried about the possibility that Sinjar could serve as a second headquarters for the PKK in northern Iraq. The KRG’s Peshmarga forces have been in efforts to get the upper hand in the area.
In the wake of Barzani’s statement, Murat Karayılan, a senior PKK figure, said the group is currently in negotiations with KRG and the group will withdraw its forces from the Sinjar district near Mosul in northern Iraq, Rudaw reported.
Turkey had previously vowed to take precautionary measures by deploying Turkish soldiers to prevent PKK militants from securing a base in Sinjar.