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What is the outlook for Turkish-Iraqi relations after Baghdad “consultations”?

Turkey and Iraq have taken a long-awaited step by Ankara regarding recognizing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party as a terrorist organization and cooperating in stopping its activities in northern Iraq.

The two sides agreed during a high-level meeting with the participation of the foreign and defense ministers and heads of intelligence agencies, along with other officials, including the head of the Popular Mobilization Forces, Falih Fayyad, held in Baghdad, on Thursday, to establish joint permanent committees, working in the fields of combating terrorism, trade, agriculture, energy, water, health, and transportation, in One basket.

The two parties discussed the common positions that will be adopted in the face of regional developments and various challenges in the bilateral fields.

Turkey welcomed the decision of the Iraqi National Security Council to classify the Kurdistan Workers’ Party as a “banned organization” in Iraq.

Iraqi and Turkish sources said earlier that the two countries are close to agreeing on a “buffer zone” during a military operation aimed at eliminating the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, and spoke of a “water and energy deal” as part of the ongoing consultations.

The Turkish delegation during the security session with Iraqi officials in Baghdad (Reuters)

Erdogan’s visit

In a joint statement following the Baghdad meeting, the two sides confirmed that efforts were being made to ensure the success of the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Iraq after the month of Ramadan.

The two sides stressed the importance that both parties attach to Iraq’s political unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and stressed that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party constitutes a security threat to Turkey and Iraq, in addition to that its presence on Iraqi territory constitutes a violation of the Iraqi constitution.

The statement stated that the two sides exchanged views on the challenges taking place in the region, especially the genocide that Gaza is being subjected to in light of the ongoing Israeli aggression against it, and affirmed their support for the Palestinian cause.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein wrote on the “X” platform, describing his meeting with his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan and his accompanying delegation as “fruitful,” and said: “We discussed a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, and the upcoming visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Iraq.”

He added: “We stressed the need to strengthen cooperation in the fields of security, trade, energy, water, education, and everything that is in the interest of our two countries.”

Turkish welcome

The Turkish side issued a statement on the results of the “Turkish-Iraqi security summit” in Baghdad, indicating that the two sides expressed their hope that Erdogan’s “historic” visit would provide a leap forward in bilateral relations.

Turkish sources said that, on the sidelines of the discussions, a security agreement was reached that would bring about the establishment of a “buffer zone” on the border between the two countries, which includes transforming the area where Turkish bases are distributed in the northern Iraqi region into a “security belt” that reaches all the areas in which it is active. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, including Mount Qandil, and the extension of Turkish military operations to pursue the Kurdistan Workers’ Party south to Assos, about 200 kilometers from the Turkish border.

The Turkish Defense Minister, Yasar Guler, had pointed out in statements last Tuesday that members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party had fled from the area where the Turkish forces were carrying out the “Claw-Lock” operation towards Assos, and that the Turkish forces were pursuing them and would expand their operations to where necessary. .

turning point

The presence of Turkish bases in northern Iraq has sparked repeated tension between Baghdad and Ankara, but the new agreement may lead, according to observers, to maintaining these bases and cooperation on the part of Baghdad and Erbil in eliminating the threats of the “Kurdistan Workers’ Party” from the perspective that it is a common danger.

The chief advisor to the Turkish Foreign Minister, Noah Yilmaz, said that after the Baghdad meeting, Turkey and Iraq had overcome the “common threat” and decided to fight together for the first time against “the terrorism of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.”

He added through his account in “X”: “This decision will be a turning point, and we will see the results gradually.”

The writer, political analyst, Murat Yetkin, believed that the visit of the high-level Turkish delegation to Baghdad should be considered a step towards a comprehensive Turkish-Iraqi agreement before Erdogan’s visit to Iraq, which is expected to take place in April after his last visit 12 years ago.

He believed that the rapprochement between Turkey and Iraq and their entry into strategic political and economic relations would not only change the equation in the Middle East, but also in the broader region.

Yetkin said: “It is not a coincidence that Turkish-Iraqi contacts have recently intensified in the security field. From Turkey’s point of view, the emergence of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Iraqi territory, and from Iraq’s point of view, the emergence of Turkey in Iraqi territory is due to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.” They were the most important issues before reaching a more comprehensive agreement, and the most difficult issue is security and mutual trust, and when this relationship is established, it is possible that the Turkish-Iraqi rapprochement will turn into an agreement during Erdogan’s meetings with Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid and Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-Sudani.

Oil and the path of development

He explained that the war against terrorism is not the only aspect of Turkish-Iraqi relations that has reached a strategic dimension, as the reopening of the two oil pipelines that transport Mosul and Kirkuk oil, which were unable to operate due to the attacks, to the Ceyhan-Yumurtalik station in Adana, southern Turkey, and the development road project. Which will connect the Arabian Gulf to Turkey with highways and train lines, is on the agenda, but to achieve this, ensuring security is a basic condition, and the comprehensive agreement could open the door to a new water system between Turkey and Iraq.

“Hurriyet” newspaper, which is close to the Turkish government, saw that the Turkish side, after the understanding with the Iraqi side, is considering taking military measures, to bridge the gap between “Mtina” and “Zab”, change the status of the “Gara” region from being a threat, cleanse the Hakurk region, and continue operations. In Mount Qandil, and clearing the Assos area, which is about 150-200 kilometers away from the actual Turkish border, where Kurdistan Workers’ Party militants are stationed. The expected operations will be joint with the Iraqi side.

Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler during his inspection by plane of the Turkish-Iraqi border (Turkish Defense)

Guler inspects the borders

Following his participation in the Baghdad meeting, the Turkish Defense Minister, Yasar Guler, did not return to Ankara, but rather went on an inspection visit to the leadership of the 3rd Infantry Division in the Hakkari border state with Iraq.

The Turkish Ministry of Defense said, in a statement on Friday, that Guler spent the night in the Yuksek Ufa area in Hakkari state, and made an inspection visit to the leadership of the 3rd Infantry Division in the same region. Guler met with military commanders in the region and was briefed on the latest developments in the ongoing operations against the strongholds of the “Party Organization.” The terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party in northern Iraq, and gave instructions in this regard.

On the eve of the Baghdad meeting, Guler made an inspection tour of another sector of the border, where he went to the border province of Sirnak with Iraq, southeast of Turkey, accompanied by his deputy, Shuay Alpay. Then he went by helicopter to the command of the 23rd Infantry Division, and there he conducted inspections of the division’s units.

The Turkish Ministry of Defense said that during the tour, Guler received a briefing on the latest developments in the ongoing operations in northern Iraq, as part of the ongoing “Claw-Lock” operation against the PKK positions. He also gave his instructions regarding the operations that will be carried out in the region.

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