Turkey and Iraq have vowed to improve bilateral relations in all fields, including the economy, energy and security matters, two foreign ministers announced, despite ongoing problems regarding water sharing and the presence of Turkish troops and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Jan. 21 paid a one-day visit to Baghdad, where he held talks with Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Parliament Speaker Selim al-Juburi.
His meeting in the Iraqi capital came a day after Turkey launched a massive operation into Afrin to clear the area of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Çavuşoğlu became the first senior Turkish official visiting Baghdad after the Iraqi government declared victory against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in December.
“I conveyed the congratulatory message of the Turkish people to the people of Iraq over the victory against the DAESH,” Çavuşoğlu said during the joint press conference with Jaafari, using the Arabic acronym for the ISIL.
Turkey will continue to stand with the people of Iraq in the post-ISIL process and for the reconstruction of Iraq, the minister also said.
“It’s important that Iraq is now clear of the DAESH but it’s equally important that the country is cleared from all sorts of terror organizations, especially the PKK,” he said.
Although these terror organizations have different ideologies and motives, their joint objective is to divide Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, the minister stressed. “These terrorists need to be wiped out from the mountains of Iraq and Turkey as well as other parts of Syria in the same way that Turkey has started to clear Afrin from terrorists through the Operation Olive Branch,” he said.
He also said Turkey would give Iraq all the necessary support in its fight against the PKK.
The address in Baghdad
Stressing the importance Turkey attaches to the protection of the territorial integrity and political unity of Iraq, Çavuşoğlu recalled Turkey’s firm stance against the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) independence bid in September 2017. “I believe they also understood the mistake they made. Everybody should respect the decision given by the Iraqi Constitutional Court, Iraqi constitution and laws. The only address to claim rights is Baghdad,” he said, in a clear message to the Arbil administration.
Turkey increases amount of water through rivers
Announcing that Turkey and Iraq would soon hold high-level strategic council meetings in a bid to revise the state of ties and cooperation in various fields, Çavuşoğlu did cite Iraqi complaints about the amount of water Turkey allocates to Iraq from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.
“We have postponed collecting water at the Ilısu Dam to June 1. We have also agreed to increase the amount of water we allocate to Iraq from 50 cubic centimeters per second to 90 cubic centimeters per second, in line with Iraqi demands. We are always ready to share water with our Iraqi brothers as with all the gifts God pledges to us,” he said.
Iraq wants to export oil through Turkey
Jaafari underlined his country’s intention to improve ties with Turkey in all fields and thanked Turkey’s generosity for sheltering Iraqi refugees fleeing violence in northern Iraq.
“We want to begin exporting Iraqi crude oil to Turkey through the pipelines as soon as possible,” he said, calling the Turkish companies to invest more in his country.
The continued presence of Turkish troops in the Bashiqa camp in Iraq was also on the agenda of the two foreign ministers. Jaafari stressed his country’s determination to resolve this ongoing issue with Turkey without giving details.
Turkey had promised to withdraw its troops from the camp once the terrorist presence in Iraq is fully cleared but has not offered a concrete timetable on the issue.