Turkey's Erdogan endorses Iraqi Sunni parties running in election

Iraqis will head to the polls on October 10

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan endorsed two Iraqi political parties competing in Iraq's general election this week, meeting their leaders in Ankara.

Iraqis are set to cast their ballots on October 10 to elect a new parliament, in what is seen as one of the most important elections since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Mr Erdogan met Iraqi Parliamentary Speaker Mohammad Al Halbousi, as well as politician and tycoon Khamis Al Khanjar in the Turkish capital on Sunday, according to Turkish and Iraqi news reports.

Mr Al Halbousi's Twitter account shared a picture of him and Mr Erdogan in Ankara.

Mr Al Khanjar said the meeting was of great importance.

The officials discussed “the political situation in the region, the importance of economic relations between Iraq and Turkey to support the stability of the Iraqi economy,” he said on Twitter.

Mr Al Khanjar said: “We affirmed our strong rejection of the exploitation of Iraq's borders by terrorist organisations and the targeting of Iraqi and Turkish lands.”

He also requested that Turkey cancels travel visas for Iraqis, except for medical patients, students, businessmen and humanitarian cases.

Mr Al Halbousi’s main competitor is Mr Al Khanjar who joined the Iran-backed Fatah Alliance after the 2018 election.

Mr Al Khanjar leads the Azm coalition and Mr Al Halbousi leads the Al Takadum Party.

The two Iraqi rivals are competing for the larger portion of Sunni votes just days before the ballot. Divisions between them have deepened as they have traded barbs in the build-up to the vote.

They hail from Iraq’s western province of Anbar and have for years been in a power-sharing dispute over the country’s Sunni community and backing.

An Iraqi official, who did not want to be named, said the meeting between Mr Erdogan and the two Iraqi politicians was an attempt to “bridge the differences” between the Iraqi politicians, but he predicted it was unlikely to bear fruit.

“I don't think that Erdogan will succeed in making amends during the run-up to the elections, they are not ready to offer concessions before the vote,” he told The National.

“Both parties believe they are stronger than the other and stronger than they really are,” he said.

The Iraqi official said the steps taken by Mr Erdogan can be labelled a “Turkish intervention” in Iraq's political process, especially for the Sunni parties.

“Ankara will now hold a new role of backing and attempting to restore the country's Sunni parties,” he said.

Turkey is leading military operations in the north, where Ankara has been attacking Kurdish rebel hideouts.

Last June, Turkish special forces launched Operation Claw-Tiger targeting positions thought to be significant to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara has been fighting for decades.

Updated: October 6th 2021, 4:37 PM
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