NEWS ANALYSIS: TURKEY, IRAQ NORMALISE TIES AFTER ANKARA CHANGES PERSPECTIVE

| January 10, 2017

ANKARA, Turkey, Normalisation of Turkish-Iraqi ties comes, after a change of perspective of Ankara, in a bid to restore its bilateral relations in the region, local experts said.

The dynamic of the normalisation was interrupted, when Turkey sent troops to the Bashiqa military camp, in northern Iraq, and deployed additional troops along the Turkish-Iraqi border, Bilgay Duman, Middle East expert at Centre For Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), told Xinhua.

At the weekend, the visiting Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, and his Iraqi counterpart, Haider al-Abadi, co-chaired the third meeting of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council in Baghdad, with the participation of a number of ministers from both sides, including the energy, economy, trade, foreign, defence and transport ministers.

The visit is seen as a new beginning in ties between the two neighbours, following months of crisis over Turkey's military camp in Bashiqa region of Mosul, which purportedly aimed to train local Sunni groups in the fight against the Daesh.

A recent ceasefire deal in Syria that Russia and Turkey, along with Iran, brokered, also eased normalisation between Ankara and Baghdad, the expert said, recalling one of the differences of the two countries were on Syria.

Turkey and Iraq were on different sides, as the Iraqi administration, acting with Iran and Russia, has lend support to Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey insisted al-Assad to step down, and supported Syrian rebels, since the crisis erupted in 2011, he said.

The issue of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has become a serious issue for Iraq as well, threatening sovereignty of the country, since the group advanced from Qandil Mountain and Sinjar region, to the outskirts of Kirkuk, Duman said.

As the PKK began to harm Iraq's sovereignty, Ankara and Baghdad have another reason to cooperate, he added.

Duman said, Turkey has intensified its efforts in struggle against the Daesh, a joint threat for both countries.

Through exchange of delegations recently, Turkey has been better expressing itself in dialogue between the two capitals, Duman said, referring to suspicion on the Iraqi administration, if Ankara was pursuing an "expansionist policy."

"Turkey clearly told Iraq that it has no eye on any country's land," he noted.

Elaborating on the outcome of the visit, he said, the two countries will push to increase trade and make joint efforts in fight against terror, including the PKK and the Daesh. The two countries also plan to sign a new agreement on energy, after the Mosul operation ended.

Whenever the Daesh group is defeated in Iraq, Baghdad will need Ankara for rehabilitation and keeping social and political balance, in places where the group will leave, according to Duman.

Despite good will for restoring ties, both countries still have differences on the issue of Turkish troops in Bashiqa military camp, in northern Iraq.

Baghdad wants to be sure for the withdraw of Turkish troops, while Ankara says they are not permanent in Iraq and will retreat after the Mosul offensive ended.

Turkey has long been suffering from internal and external terrorism since June, 2015, therefore, its will to cooperate with regional countries has vital importance, said Serkan Demirtas, local Hurriyet Daily News columnist.

The foreign policy pundit believes this visit is not a magic touch that will resolve all differences between Ankara and Baghdad, particularly on the issue of the Bashiqa camp, but they will be able to engage in a dialogue, so that they can better find ways to cooperate, the expert said.

Demirtas underlined that, energy is the most vital area of cooperation between Iraq and Turkey, since the latter could be the route for Iraqi natural resources to world markets.

Iraq was Turkey's second most important market, with an annual trade volume of nine billion U.S. dollars, but the strain in bilateral relations has inflicted a heavy blow on commerce.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

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