Turkish Foreign Minister calls for Iraq to define PKK as terrorist group

Hakan Fidan urges Iraqi officials to 'not allow our mutual enemy to poison our bilateral relations'

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, left, speaks alongside Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein in Baghdad on Tuesday. Reuters
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Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on Tuesday denounced a separatist Kurdish group that operates in Iraq as an enemy of both countries and urged the Iraqi government to ban it as a terrorist organisation, as Ankara has done.

Mr Fidan called on Iraq to designate the Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, as a terrorist organisation during his first visit to Baghdad since taking office.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to visit the country shortly, after months of escalating hostility between Turkey and Turkish-backed groups on one side, and Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria on the other.

After meeting Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, Mr Fidan urged Iraqi officials to “not allow our mutual enemy, the PKK terrorist organisation, to poison our bilateral relations".

Baghdad has often complained that Turkish air strikes in northern Iraq are a breach of its sovereignty.

But Mr Fidan described the PKK's activities there as a “challenge against Iraq’s sovereignty", accusing the group of “occupying” areas in Iraq and seeking to link Iraq to neighbouring Syria with a “terror corridor".

The PKK question is expected to loom large during a visit by Mr Erdogan, along with the resumption of oil exports from northern Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region through the Ceyhan port in Turkey.

Officials in Baghdad and Erbil, the seat of the Kurdish regional government, have long been at odds over sharing of oil revenues.

In 2014, the Kurdish region decided to unilaterally export oil through an independent pipeline to Ceyhan.

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Turkey halted oil shipments from the Kurdish region through Ceyhan in March, after a ruling by the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris, which sided with Baghdad, holding that all oil exports should go through Iraq’s state-owned oil marketing company, Somo.

The ruling required Ankara to compensate Baghdad for unauthorised oil exports from the Kurdish regional government from 2014 to 2018.

Iraqi Foreign Affairs spokesman Ahmed Al Sahaf said a high-ranking Iraqi delegation, led by Oil Minister Hayan Abdel-Ghani, is in Turkey.

Mr Hussein said after his meeting with Mr Fidan that they had discussed the oil issue and were close to finalising a solution.

He said the discussions with the Turkish minister had also focused on water issues.

The countries have been at odds over management of shared water resources amid intensifying droughts in Iraq.

“Given our shared challenges with climate change and Iraq’s historical reliance on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers originating in Turkey, it’s crucial for Iraq to receive its fair share of water,” Mr Hussein said.

The two foreign ministers also spoke about recent public Quran-burnings in Europe, which sparked mass protests in Iraq, some of them violent.

Mr Fidan said that if the two Muslim-majority countries “remain united, those who attack our sacred values will think twice before taking such action".

Mr Hussein said about 700,000 Iraqis live in Turkey, and 850 Turkish companies operate in Iraq.

Mr Fidan said that bilateral trade has reached $25 billion.

He is next scheduled to visit Erbil and meet the Kurdish region's Prime Minister, Masrour Barzani.

Updated: August 22, 2023, 10:25 PM