Turkiye’s Erdogan in Iraq to push for reset of ties, cooperation against PKK

Turkiye’s Erdogan in Iraq to push for reset of ties, cooperation against PKK
Turkiye’s Erdogan in Iraq to push for reset of ties, cooperation against PKK

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attend a welcoming ceremony at Baghdad International Airport, in Baghdad, Iraq April 22, 2024. — Reuters pic

BAGHDAD, April 22 — Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan began a rare visit to neighbouring Iraq today aiming to reset rocky bilateral ties with a raft of deals covering energy, trade and security cooperation against Kurdish PKK militants.

Erdogan’s long-awaited visit is the first by a Turkish leader since 2011 and follows years of strained relations as Ankara ramped up cross-border operations against PKK militants based in mountainous, mainly Kurdish northern Iraq.

“President Erdogan stated that Turkiye had expectations from Iraq in the battle with the PKK terrorist organisation, that Iraq must eradicate all sorts of terror,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement after Erdogan’s talks with Iraqi President President Abdul Latif Rashid.

Rashid - the most senior Kurdish official in Iraq - said Iraq supported joint work to fight terrorism and was against its territory being used to attack any neighbours, the Iraqi presidency said. But Rashid also said Iraq opposed any attacks on its territory.

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Iraq has said Turkish operations violate its sovereignty and have killed civilians. Ankara says it must protect itself against the PKK, which Turkiye and its Western allies designate as a terrorist group.

Turkiye plans a new swoop on the militants this spring and has sought Iraqi military cooperation, in the form of a joint operations room, as well as recognition by Baghdad of the PKK threat.

Cooperation on big economic projects is also on the table.

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Iraq last year launched a US$17 billion (RM81.2 billion) Development Road project, which seeks to turn the country into a transit hub, connecting Asia and Europe with a link between Iraq’s Grand Faw Port in the oil-rich south and Turkey in the north.

Water

Baghdad is also seeking a deal to secure a larger share of water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, both of which originate in Turkiye and are the main source of freshwater in drought-stricken Iraq.

Rashid told Erdogan that Iraq was entitled to its “fair share” of that water, the Iraqi presidency said.

Iraqi and Turkish officials said more than 20 memorandums of understanding would be signed during Erdogan’s one-day visit.

Bilateral trade was worth US$19.9 billion in 2023, down from US$24.2 billion in 2022, according to official Turkish data. In the first three months of 2024, Turkish exports to Iraq rose by 24.5 per cent, while imports fell by 46.2 per cent.

Erdogan is set to meet Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in Baghdad, then travel to Erbil, the provincial capital of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, for talks with Iraqi Kurdish officials.

The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 and more than 40,000 people have been killed since then.

Since 2019, Turkey has conducted a series of cross-border operations in northern Iraq against the PKK dubbed “Claw”. — Reuters

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