Iraq, Turkiye agree to cooperate against Kurdish militants

Published April 23, 2024
IRAQ’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani (right) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a joint statement to the media.—AFP
IRAQ’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani (right) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a joint statement to the media.—AFP

BAGHDAD: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said relations with Iraq were entering a new phase after the neighbours agreed to cooperate against Kurdish militants, boost economic ties via a new trade corridor and consider Iraq’s needs for access to scarce water.

Erdogan was in Iraq on a long-awaited visit, the first by a Turkish leader since 2011, following years of strained relations as Ankara ramped up cross-border operations against PKK militants based in mountainous, mainly Kurdish northern Iraq.

“I shared my belief that the PKK’s presence in Iraq will end. We discussed the joint steps we can take against the terrorist organisation PKK and its extensions targeting Turkiye,” Erdogan said at a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in Baghdad.

The two countries agreed to a strategic framework agreement overseeing security, trade and energy as well as a 10-year deal on the management of water resources that would take Iraq’s needs into account, Sudani said.

Sudani said the two countries would cooperate to bolster border security and act against non-state armed groups that could be working with terrorist organisations. He did not mention the PKK specifically.

An Iraqi government spokesperson said PKK members were welcome in Iraq so long as they did not engage in political activism or carry weapons. He did not elaborate.

The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 and is designated a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies. Turkiye has conducted a series of cross-border operations against the group in northern Iraq since 2019.

Published in Dawn, April 23nd, 2024

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