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Kurdish separatists and water issues feature prominently during Turkish President Erdogan's long-awaited visit to Iraq

Kurdish separatists and water issues feature prominently during Turkish President Erdogan's long-awaited visit to Iraq


BAGHDAD (AP) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan An arrived in Iraq on Monday for his first official visit in more than a decade, as Ankara seeks greater cooperation from Baghdad in its fight against a Kurdish militant group based in Iraq.

Other issues also weigh heavily between the two countries, notably water supply And oil and gas exports from northern Iraq to Turkey, interrupted for more than a year.

Erdogan, whose last visit to Baghdad dates back to 2011, when he was prime minister, met Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid and Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as they signed agreements on water management, security, energy and economic cooperation.

I believe that my visit and the agreements just signed will constitute a new turning point in relations between Turkey and Iraq, Erdogan said at a joint press conference with al-Sudani.

Al-Soudani said they discussed bilateral security coordination, which will meet the needs of both sides and address the challenges posed by the presence of armed elements likely to cooperate with terrorism and violate the security of both countries.

Erdogan's visit comes at a sensitive and dangerous time,” al-Sudani added, citing Israel's war against the Hamas militant group in Gaza a war that had repercussions throughout the region.

Erdogan said the leaders consulted on joint measures we can take against the PKK terrorist organization and its extensions, which are targeting Turkey from Iraqi territory,” referring to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist movement banned in Türkiye.

The PKK maintained bases in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Erdogan previously announced a major operation against the PKK over the summer, aiming to permanently eradicate the threat it poses. He did not specify what actions Turkish forces would take in Iraq, but Turkish forces have carried out numerous ground offensives against the PKK in northern Iraq in the past and Turkish aircraft frequently target suspected PKK sites.

Ankara now aims to create a 30-40 kilometer deep security corridor along the shared border with Iraq, Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler told reporters last month.

The PKK's insurgency for an autonomous Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey has cost tens of thousands of lives since the 1980s, Turkey and its Western allies have labeled the PKK a terrorist organization.

Baghdad has long complained that Turkish actions in Iraq against the PKK violate its sovereignty, but appears to approve of Ankara's operations.

In March, after a meeting between the Iraqi and Turkish foreign ministers, Baghdad announced that the Iraqi National Security Council had banned the PKK, without going so far as to qualify it as a terrorist organization. Erdogan welcomed this ban on Monday.

Al-Sudani told reporters during a visit to Washington last week that Iraq and Turkey have genuine interests in each other and common projects. He stressed that the PKK has a long presence in northern Iraq, but we do not allow any armed group to be on Iraqi territory and use it as a launching pad for attacks.

Ankara has argued that the PKK's presence in Iraq threatens the planned construction of a major trade route, the Iraq Development Road, which would connect the port of Basrain southern Iraq, to ​​Turkey and Europe via a network of rail lines and highways.

Baghdad could take a similar approach toward the PKK as it has toward Iranian Kurdish dissident groups based in northern Iraq.

The presence of Iranian dissidents had become a point of tension with Tehran, which periodically launches airstrikes on its bases in Iraq. Last summer, Iran and Iraq reached an agreement to disarm the groups and relocate them their members from military bases to displaced persons camps.

Energy issues and water rights are also central to Iraq-Turkey relations.

An oil pipeline linking the semi-autonomous Kurdish region to Turkey has been closed since March 2023, after Arbitration court ruling ordered Ankara to pay $1.5 billion to Iraq for oil exports that bypassed the Iraqi central government in Baghdad. The sharing of oil and gas revenues has long been a contentious issue between Baghdad and the Kurdish authorities in Erbil.

In recent years, Iraqi officials have complained that dams built by Turkey reduce Iraq's water supply.

The Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which provide most of Iraq's fresh water, originate in Turkey. Experts fear that climate change will exacerbate existing water shortages in Iraq, with potentially devastating consequences.

Mustafa Hassan, a Baghdad resident, said he hoped Erdogan's visit would help resolve water issues, as Iraq is suffering from a water shortage crisis, which is affecting the 'agriculture.

Erdogan said Ankara was aware of the water problems facing Iraq and that the two countries had set up “a joint permanent committee that will help through cooperation… taking into account our common interests” .


Fraser reported from Istanbul. Associated Press writers Andrew Wilks in Istanbul, Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington and Ali Jabar in Baghdad contributed to this report.




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