Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi began an official visit to Turkey at the head of a high-level government delegation, and upon his arrival, he met with senior officials in Turkey, to discuss strengthening bilateral cooperation and issues of common concern.
The importance of this visit, which came at the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the 14th of last October, is that it comes at an important fateful stage that may determine the shape of future relations between the two countries.
The visit includes 8 important files on the level of security, economy, investment, energy, water, railways, visas, frozen funds, and others. It will also witness the signing of various memoranda of understanding between the two countries.
Erdogan said, in a joint press conference with Al-Kazemi in Ankara, that Turkey stands by Iraq in combating terrorist organizations, and supports the territorial integrity of Iraq with all its components, and confirmed Turkey’s support for the agreement to abolish double taxation with Iraq and the continuation of development projects.
The Turkish President stressed the need to create the ground that supports raising the volume of trade exchange between the two countries, such as the agreement to eliminate double taxes, and to continue development projects, especially the energy sector, including the important oil pipeline between Kirkuk and Ceyhan.
On the water file, Erdogan said that he would not be the focus of a dispute between Turkey and Iraq, noting that Turkey realizes the importance of water and energy for the two countries.
For his part, Al-Kazemi indicated that Iraq and Turkey are ready to develop a joint action plan in order to reach a comprehensive vision to regulate water flow and distribute water quotas to ensure the needs of the population.
Al-Kazemi added – in the press conference – that the two countries will work to activate the Supreme Council for Strategic Cooperation and the joint Iraqi-Turkish committees, considering that Turkey is one of the most important trading partners of Iraq.
Al-Kazemi expressed Iraq’s desire for further development in economic relations and partnership with Turkey, and investment in particular in the sectors that Iraq currently needs, noting that the doors of Iraq are open to all Turkish businessmen and investments.
Regarding the security file, Al-Kazemi clarified that Iraq’s position is to condemn any act threatening Turkey, and not allow any outlaw organization to use the land of Iraq to threaten its neighbors, pointing out that Iraq has finally taken important steps in the Sinjar district in the Nineveh governorate in northern Iraq, and on the Iraqi-Syrian border. To prevent armed organizations from entering Iraq.
The importance of the visit
Al-Kazemi’s visit to Turkey is very important, because there are many pending files, including trade relations, including bilateral security relations, especially the issue of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and the presence of the Turkish army in Iraqi lands, to fight terrorism, and all these files will be discussed during this meeting, according to the Turkish researcher. Interested in Arab affairs, Omar Korkmaz.
Korkmaz adds – to Al Jazeera Net – that Turkey views its relations with Iraq with great importance, but the visit was delayed for political reasons.
Hosam Botani, head of the Policy-Making Center for International and Strategic Studies in Istanbul, believes that Al-Kazemi’s visit comes after a long period of his assumption of power, and it appears to be late compared to other visits he has made to Iran and even America, and his Arab and other tours.
It is likely that Bhutani – during his speech to Al-Jazeera Net – that the delay in the visit relates to two main issues, the first is that Turkey views Al-Kazemi as an ally of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and feels anxious and upset about this issue.
As for the second matter, it is the issue of Turkey launching Operation Claw in northern Iraq, and what happened to the killing of an Iraqi officer, where the relationship witnessed after that a kind of faltering, so that Baghdad canceled the Turkish Defense Minister’s visit to it in protest.
Bhutani believes that this visit is aimed at resolving matters, or returning the relationship to its course.
The political researcher and leader of the Iraqi Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Mahmoud Khoshnaw, views this visit with importance, stressing the need for it to contribute to ending some of the outstanding problems between the two countries.
There are controls that must be understood in order to understand the Turkish-Iraqi relations, despite their importance for both parties, due to the nature of the geographical and historical connection of these two countries, according to Bhutani.
He added, “There have been 3 main nodes that control the course of relations between Iraq and Turkey over the past years, and they are related to security, water and the economy,” noting that Turkey’s security perception of the relationship with Iraq and its perception of priorities and national determinants are completely different from the Iraqi perception of security.
He explains that Turkey sees in its relationship with Iraq that the PKK file is the main threat to its national security, and in many cases it looks at Iraq only from this angle.
Khoshnaw believes – in his speech to Al-Jazeera Net – that Turkey is an important neighboring country for Iraq, which is the gateway to Iraq and the Kurdistan region towards Europe, adding, “We want the relationship between the two parties to be based on the principles of good neighborliness and mutual trade relations.”
In a related context, Korkmaz confirms that Turkey’s doors are open to the Iraqis, but the matter is up to the Iraqi side, asking, “Does Baghdad have the full capacity to deal with Turkey?”, Noting that the rapid and significant change of governments in Iraq makes the Turkish side confused with who will deal and how to deal?
It is believed that if the central government was firmly established in Baghdad, the Turkish government’s handling of Iraq would be much easier in the long run.
The most prominent problems
The issue of security was at the forefront of the files on the visiting table, because Iraq suffers from deteriorating security, and the Iraqi people have not yet lived or tasted the sweetness of freedom since 2003, according to Korkmaz.
He adds that Turkey may present some democratic experiences, especially in the field of holding the elections to be held, saying that building Iraq needs businessmen and large contractors, and Turkey has promised Iraq large financial aid, and this file may be discussed and studied, to support the development and construction of Iraq.
Botani states that Iraq has great future concerns related to the issue of water and its shares of it, as Turkey launched the “Cape” project 20 years ago, and there were statements stating that oil is for water.
He adds that although the new administration in Turkey is completely different from the previous ones, the water file remains present in the Iraqi mentality, indicating that the main problem in the issue of water is the issue of the Turkish Ilisu Dam, which could affect mainly the water resources of the Tigris River, and this will be reflected. Negatively the Iraqi water wealth.
As for the economic file, Bhutani pointed out that the volume of economic exchange between the two countries exceeds $ 10 billion, but this trade exchange did not find its translation on the ground in achieving a strategic partnership between them.
In the same context, Khoshnaw refers to the importance of the border crossings between Turkey and Iraq, saying that Ibrahim al-Khalil port is an important port in the Kurdistan region, and the leadership of the region encourages an increase in the volume of trade exchange.
With regard to border security, Khoshnaw called on Turkey and the PKK to reach a common formula for peace, and for the armed political conflicts to end on the borders, specifically within Iraqi territories.
The future of relationships
Despite the desired hopes, Bhutani expects that the visit will be cosmetic to remove the unspoken tension in the relationship between the two countries, ruling out real repercussions on major files such as the security file and the water file.
This is supported by Khoshnaw, who stated that Al-Kazemi cannot do anything without political stability in Iraq, saying that he does not expect Al-Kazemi to have decisive political decisions without referring to the active political forces within the Iraqi parliament, which intersect with him in many files.
He stressed that the current political system poses great challenges to Al-Kazemi, and does not give him the power to reach crucial and important agreements between the two parties.