Iraq and Turkey hold 'productive' meeting on wide range of issues, Iraq FM says

The discussions come ahead of expected visit by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to Baghdad next month

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan travelled to Baghdad along with the country's Defence Minister and the head of its intelligence agency. Reuters
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Iraq and Turkey held high-level talks in Baghdad on Thursday to discuss co-operation in areas including security and energy ahead of an expected visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan next month.

The Turkish delegation to Iraq includes Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Defence Minister Yasar Guler and Ibrahim Kalin, the head of the country's MIT intelligence agency, its Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

The Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein welcomed his Turkish counterpart and conducted “political consultations”, the ministry said.

In a separate statement on social media platform X, Mr Hussein described the meeting as “productive”.

“We discussed a wide range of bilateral and regional issues and the upcoming visit of HE President Erdogan,” he said.

“We stressed the need to strengthen co-operation in fields of: security, trade, energy, water, education and everything that is in the interest of our countries.”

Iraq's Defence Minister Thabet Al Abbasi and the National Security Adviser Qasim Al Araji attended the meeting.

Falih Al Fayyadh, chairman of the Popular Mobilisation Forces – the umbrella body for Iran-backed militias in Iraq that has been integrated into Iraq's security framework – and Rebar Ahmed, Interior Minister of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq that borders Turkey and Iran, also attended.

Iraq and Turkey have clashed over several issues.

In recent years, Turkey has increased cross-border operations against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a Turkish Kurd dissident group which has bases in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Iraq has said the operations violate its sovereignty, but Turkey says it must protect itself and has warned of further incursions into Iraqi territory.

“Security and military co-operation will be a priority during the talks,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Oncu Keceli said during a briefing in Ankara.

“The PKK being defined as a common security threat by Iraqi authorities is a sign that the desire to battle the PKK is developing in Iraq and we welcome this,” he said.

“Developing a common understanding in counterterrorism and concrete steps that can be taken in that regard will be on the table.”

The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by the US and the EU. It took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the insurgency.

Baghdad and Ankara are also at odds over oil exports from Iraq's northern Kurdish region through Turkey, the subject of a long-running dispute between the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdish regional government.

Turkey last year halted the flow of at least 500,000 barrels a day through a pipeline from the Kurdish region after an arbitration ruling by the International Chamber of Commerce ordered Ankara to pay Baghdad damages for unauthorised exports between 2014 and 2018.

Ankara later started maintenance work on the pipeline that contributes about 0.5 per cent of global crude supply. The two countries agreed to wait until a maintenance assessment on the pipeline was complete to restart flows while still engaging in a legal battle on arbitration awards.

“We said last October that the flows could begin on this pipeline, that there is no issues for us. However, we understand the Iraqi side is not yet ready,” Mr Keceli said.

“We want for all the parties in Iraq to reach an agreement within the framework of mutual dialogue and understanding, and for flows on this pipeline to resume as soon as possible,” he said.

Mr Keceli said the issue would be discussed during the Turkish delegation's visit, along with co-operation on gas and renewable energy.

Another outstanding issue is Iraq's demand for a “fair and equitable” share of water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which account for more than 90 per cent of its fresh water supply.

Both rivers originate in Turkey, while the Tigris is also fed by several tributaries from neighbouring Iran.

Turkey has built several dams on the rivers, while Iran has diverted the tributaries to its land.

Turkey is one of Iraq’s main trade partners. Mr Erdogan said in March last year that the volume of annual trade between the two neighbouring countries “broke the record” in 2022, exceeding $24 billion.

Baghdad is also keen to have Ankara invest in the $17 billion infrastructure project known as the Dry Canal or Development Road. The proposed road and rail link will run from southern Iraq to Turkey, where it will connect to rail and road networks in Europe.

Updated: March 14, 2024, 7:27 PM