Iraqi PM visits Turkey after months of tensions

Ankara's military incursion against Kurdish militants in June angered Baghdad

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi arrived in Turkey on Thursday, the most high-profile visit by an official from Baghdad since Ankara launched a military operation in the summer against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

Mr Al Kadhimi is scheduled to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish officials on Thursday. They will discuss “boosting joint co-operation between Iraq and Turkey and other issues of common interests”, according to a statement issued by his office.

Turkish forces launched an air and land offensive against fighters of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq in June and set up military posts.

The PKK, which fought an insurgency in Turkey in the 1980s, is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

PKK fighters and Iraqi civilians were killed in Turkish artillery fire and air strikes on several locations in Iraq's north, including the town of Sinjar where the PKK maintained a presence after taking part in an operation to drive out ISIS.

Baghdad has twice summoned Ankara's ambassador to Iraq to protest about the incursion.

Tensions between Baghdad and Ankara increased in recent years over water shortages in the Euphrates and Tigris rivers as Turkey pushed ahead with its dam projects.

Iraq's ambassador to Turkey, Hassan Al Janabi, said last week that Mr Al Kadhimi would discuss security, water and economic issues during his visit.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, who arrived in Ankara on Wednesday, said he discussed with his Turkish counterpart the presence of the PKK and the implementation of the latest agreement between Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdish region to enforce security in Sinjar by forcing the PKK to leave the city.
Mr Hussein said trade between Iraq and Turkey was expected to rise to $17 billion this year from $15.8bn in 2019.

He said the two sides would sign agreements in different areas, but did not specify them.