Erdogan vows support for integrity of Iraq

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi (AFP/Turkish prime ministre press office)
Updated 25 October 2017
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Erdogan vows support for integrity of Iraq

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged his support on Wednesday for the integrity of the Iraqi state and warned against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) exploiting a power vacuum in northern Iraq.
“In all these areas, we are ready to continue common efforts and be in solidarity with Baghdad,” he said, and Ankara would also support Baghdad in its fight against Daesh. 
Erdogan was speaking at a press conference with the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, who visited Ankara after talks in Riyadh with King Salman of Saudi Arabia and in Baghdad with the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. 
The flurry of diplomacy follows a controversial referendum last month in which Kurds in northern Iraq voted for independence, and military action by Baghdad to retake the city of Kirkuk, which has been controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) since 2014. 
The KRG on Wednesday proposed an immediate halt to military operations, freezing of the referendum results and new talks with Baghdad. 
Turkey opposed the referendum and criticized it again on Wednesday. “Why did you insist on this mistake if this would be the point you would arrive at? Why didn’t you listen to Turkey’s advice?” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said. 
Iraq has about $9 billion a year in trade with Turkey, its largest trading partner. Much of it is conducted through the Habur border crossing, which is controlled by the KRG on the Iraqi side. Ankara and Baghdad are considering an alternative border crossing.  
Erdogan also said his country is prepared to help Iraq’s central government export oil through a pipeline that would largely bypass Iraq’s Kurdish region, reported AP.
“While the Turkish government realizes that an independent Kurdish state next to its borders is a serious security threat to its domestic stability, Turkey also understands the importance of maintaining influence inside Iraq by supporting the KRG,” Muhanad Seloom, director of Iraqi Centre for Strategic Studies in London, told Arab News. 
“Turkish-KRG relations also serve as counterbalance to the growing Iranian influence inside Iraq.” 
The status of Turkey’s Bashiqa military camp in Iraq, where Turkish troops provide training to local forces, is also a matter of concern. Ankara and Baghdad were at odds last year over the camp, which Baghdad views as a violation of its sovereignty. 
“On the one hand, the Turkish government prefers to keep its small military force in Bashiqa camp to monitor the growing presence of the PKK and to protect its strategic interests in Iraq, including Kirkuk. On the other hand, Iraq will push to terminate the presence of Turkish forces in Iraq because it diminishes Iraq’s sovereignty,” Seloom said. 
Ali Semin, a Middle East expert at the Bilgesam think tank in Istanbul, said Baghdad, Tehran and Ankara would not accept merely freezing the independence referendum results, but required their complete cancellation. 
“The opening of a new border crossing between Turkey and Iraq will take time because it requires additional security measures and feasibility studies in this risky region,” Semin told Arab News. 
At this stage, experts do not expect any demand from Baghdad for the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Bashiqa camp. 
“The aim of Al-Abadi’s visit was to coordinate with the Turkish government to end Iraqi Kurds’ separatist aspirations. This coordination could be manifested in an agreement between Baghdad and Ankara to set up a border crossing which is not part of the KRG’s administrative territory, as well as decreasing economic and security cooperation between Turkey and the KRG,” Seloom said.
Baghdad wants Turkey to maintain its presence in Bashiqa as a contribution to regional security, although its purpose may be altered, Semin said.  “I predict that from now on only Iraqi security forces — military and police forces — will be trained in the Bashiqa camp,” he said.


Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in UAE on state visit

Updated 20 September 2018
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Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in UAE on state visit

Pakistan’s new prime minister, former cricket player Imran Khan, has visited the United Arab Emirates on his first official overseas trip, after concluding a state visit to Saudi Arabia.

Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi held talks on Wesdneday Khan on regional and international issues of mutual interest as well as ways to enhance bilateral ties.

While in Saudi Arabia, Khan met with King Salman at a luncheon at Al-Salam Palace.