Turkey President Erdogan’s Iraq visit to open new chapter in relations

 By Abbas al-Baghdadi

Azzaman, January 2, 2015

Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan’s imminent visit to Baghdad is an opportunity to open a new chapter in relations strained during the eight years in power of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

It will the first visit by Erdogan to Baghdad and comes as the new government of Prime Minister Haider Abbadi is waging a ferocious war against Islamic State militants who control larges areas of Iraq including the northern city of Mosul, the country’s second largest.

Foreign Relations Commission at the Iraqi parliament expressed optimism about the visit and urged all of Iraq’s neighbors, mainly Arab states to work for a new era of relations.

“The forthcoming visit by Erdogan confirms that Iraq’s diplomatic initiative is bearing fruit,” said Mithal al-Alosi, a member of the committee. “There are numerous files to be discussed during the visit, particularly oil, security and trade exchange.”

Turkey angered Baghdad when it allowed Kurds in the north to export oil to international markets via a pipeline through its territory and Turkish terminals on the Mediterranean without Iraqi government’s consent.

Ankara’s opening to Iraqi Kurds, according to Baghdad, encouraged the Kurdish Regional Government in Arbil to take steps towards independence from Iraq.

The Kurds initially exploited the advance of Islamic State militants by expanding the territory under their control, and vowing to hold a referendum on full sovereignty.

Baghdad and Ankara also need to coordinate their anti-terror policies following the rise of the Islamic State and its control of large swathes of Iraq.

Alosi said Baghdad should add to Erdogan’s visit agenda the issue of water sharing as Iraq’s two main rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates originate in Turkey and the past years have seen a reduction in the volume of water reaching the country.

Trade exchange will certainly be high on the agenda of the Erdogan’s Baghdad visit, with Ankara currently one of Iraq’s top trading partners.