Will Turkish defense minister’s Iraq visit yield concrete results?

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IslamNews – Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar’s recent visit to Iraq has seen plenty of verbal agreements on an array of issues Ankara shares with the central Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Yet whether these agreements would translate into concrete steps remains to be seen.

Following Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s visit to Turkey Dec. 17, 2020, Akar paid a high-profile visit to Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan on Jan 18-20. He was accompanied by a large Turkish delegation including Chief of Staff of the Turkish armed forces Yasar Guler. In Baghdad, the delegation headed by Akar met with the Iraqi minister of defense and minister of interior along with President Barham Salih and Kadhimi. In Erbil, Akar held separate meetings with KRG President Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and former President Massoud Barzani, who is also leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the dominant political force in Iraqi Kurdistan. The delegation also paid a visit to the office of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in Erbil.

Eight meetings and the high-profile welcome indicate the importance the Iraqi side attached to the visit considering the cold shoulder the Iraqi authorities gave to the Turkish defense minister only months ago. Akar’s previous planned visit to Iraq in August last year was canceled after a Turkish drone strike killed two Iraqi border guards in the Sidekhan area in the same month, as part of ongoing Turkish military operations against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) members based in northern Iraq. Turkey and much of the Western powers including the United States consider the PKK a terrorist organization.

The first sign of breaking the ice came with Kadhimi’s Ankara visit last month that took no less than four invitations by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Akar’s follow-up visit has further boosted the expectations that the two countries were ready to settle their differences.

During Kadhimi’s visit, the sides discussed a large array of bilateral issues, including strengthening the security cooperation against the PKK, removing PKK militants from Sinjar and Makhmour, opening of a second border crossing between the two countries, reconstructing a main highway linking Mosul to this crossing in an attempt to set up a buffer zone between the PKK-based regions of Iraq and Syria’s region under the control of the Kurdish groups, reopening of an oil pipeline from Kirkuk to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, setting up joint modernization projects to solve the chronic water-sharing problem between the two neighbors and developing reconstruction projects that were planned to be financed through a $5 billion Turkish pledge for Iraq’s reconstruction.

Source: Middle East

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