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Baghdad, Ankara set to sign water, security deals during Erdogan's visit

Baghdad, Ankara set to sign water, security deals during Erdogan's visit

 


Iraq is expected to host Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday for a visit aimed at promoting greater cooperation between the two neighboring countries.

Baghdad and Ankara have had tense relations since the 2003 US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime.

Among the disagreements between the two nations is Turkey's decades-long military operation in northern Iraq against the Kurdish dissident group, which Baghdad views as an attack on the country's sovereignty. Relations have also been strained over Iraqi demands for a fair share of water flowing to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

The two countries are expected to sign several agreements aimed at strengthening their relations and cooperation in different areas, Iraqi National Security Advisor Qasim Al Araji said on Wednesday.

Mr Al Araji described Mr Erdogan's visit as important and expressed optimism about the meeting.

Iraq is keen to resolve all these issues and challenges and we have found real and serious willingness from Turkey, he said.

Mr. Erdogan will begin his one-day visit in Baghdad where he will meet Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid and Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Soudani before traveling to Erbil, the provincial capital of the Kurdish region.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has bases in northern Iraq, from which it has launched attacks against Turkey in an effort to gain greater autonomy for the Kurdish people.

The conflict between the Turkish military and the PKK in Iraq intensified in the 1990s when Turkey launched several ground operations in northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War.

Ankara has launched several operations in Iraq against the group, which have increased in recent years.

The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union. It took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984, killing more than 40,000 people.

Last month, a Turkish delegation held talks in Baghdad. At the meeting, Ankara asked for greater cooperation in its fight against the PKK ahead of a military operation this summer, according to Iraqi officials.

Both sides hailed the negotiations as productive and Turkey welcomed Iraq's decision to designate the PKK as a banned organization.

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 percent of its fresh water supply.

Both rivers originate in Turkey, while several tributaries from neighboring Iran also feed the Tigris.

Turkey has built several dams on the rivers, while Iran has diverted the tributaries into its territory.

For decades, Iraq failed to agree with either country on how to secure a fair share of water. Both say they too are suffering from a lack of water and that Iraq uses outdated irrigation methods.

We have prepared the appropriate memorandum that will be included in the protocol that will be signed during the visit, Minister of Water Resources Aoun Diab Abdallah said at the Sulaimani Forum, adding that this will be a step forward.

His statement echoes that of Mr Erdogan last week, in which he said the water issue would be one of the most important items on the agenda.

They [Iraqis] We have made some requests regarding water and we are working on these issues, he said.

We will make efforts to resolve this issue with them. They already want to resolve this issue. We will take steps in this direction.

The discussion will also touch on other issues such as the flow of natural gas and oil to Turkey.

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

Last year, Turkey cut off the flow of about 500,000 barrels per day through a pipeline from the Kurdish region after an International Chamber of Commerce arbitration ruling ordered Ankara to pay damages and interest to Baghdad for unauthorized exports between 2014 and 2018. No agreement has been reached since. to resume exports.

Turkey is one of Iraq's main trading partners. In March last year, Erdogan said the annual trade volume between the two neighboring countries had broken the record set in 2022, surpassing $24 billion.

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

Updated: April 21, 2024, 1:57 p.m.

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