Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan expected to visit Iraq next week: sources

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan expected to visit Iraq next week: sources
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to visit Iraq next week and to discuss fundamental security and economic issues with Iraqi officials.
4 min read
27 July, 2023
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani hold a joint press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on 21 March 2023. [Getty]

According to senior-level sources, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Iraq soon to discuss critical security and economic issues, including the resumption of crude exports from the Iraqi Kurdistan region through the Turkish Port of Ceyhan. 

On Tuesday, 25 July, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' al-Sudani received Turkish Ambassador to Baghdad Ali Reza Gunay, and discussed Erdogan's expected visit to Baghdad, Sudani's Media Office said in a statement reported by Iraq's state news agency (INA). 

"The expected visit by the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Iraq, and holding the joint economic forum in Basra [by late 2023], Turkey's participation in the Development Route along with Iraq's neighbouring countries, the joint dossier of water, and plans for establishing a joint measurement centre on the Iraqi-Turkish border were discussed during the meeting," reads the statement.

"Sudani has reiterated his support for promoting the economy, trade, and investment between the two countries. He also affirmed the need for activating joint committees to follow up signed Memorandums of Understandings and bilateral agreements between neighbouring countries," it added. 

The New Arab contacted Basim al-Awadi, the spokesperson of the Iraqi government, but he was not immediately available to comment.

TNA also spoke with Ahmed al-Sahaf, spokesperson of Iraq's foreign ministry, but he refused to answer questions on when Erdogan will visit Iraq or what issues would be discussed during his expected meetings with top Iraqi leaders. Al-Sahaf suggested contacting the spokesperson of the Iraqi government, indicating that the Turkish president is the guest of the Iraqi PM. Thus, the issue is "within the specialisations of the Iraqi PM's office." 

Sudani previously visited the Turkish capital, Ankara, for a two-day official visit on 21-22 March as per an invitation from Erdogan. 

An official from the presidency of the Iraqi premiership, speaking on condition of secrecy, has told TNA's Arabic sister language website Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that Erdogan will visit Iraq next week, heading a senior governmental delegation aiming at "settling many suspended issues between the two countries related to security, water, economy, and investment." 

"The Iraqi and Turkish leaders will negotiate to settle the issue of water flowing in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. We hope the Turkish president announces an increase in water flowing to Iraq to pass the current water deficiency during summer and the heatwave that hit the country," the official has reportedly said. 

Iraqi and Turkish officials will extensively negotiate the issue of resuming the export of crude oil from the Iraqi Kurdistan region through the Turkish port of Ceyhan, the official added, clarifying that Turkey wants sparing it from paying fines according to the tribunal by the Paris-based the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

On 25 March, the international tribunal ruled in a nine-year-old dispute that Baghdad was proper to insist on overseeing all Iraqi oil exports. It ordered Turkey to pay Baghdad damages of US$1.5 billion for allowing the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to export oil between 2014 and 2018 without the Iraqi government's consent. 

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It is expected that during the visit, the resumption of oil from the northern fields to be announced, the Iraqi official said, and noted that Baghdad is trying to ask the payment from Ankara according to a timetable or even cancelling the money in return for other advantages Iraq will get from Turkey. 

The official also disclosed that Erdogan and his intelligence and military team will discuss the issue of the existence of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. The official expected Turkey's problems with Iraq related to water flow and economy "might be linked to the PKK issue since it is a big priority for Turkey because it is linked to Turkey's national security."

Suspension of Kurdistan's oil exports halted repayments via crude cargoes of $US6 billion owed to energy traders, including Vitol and Petraco, by the semi-autonomous Iraqi region, trading sources told Reuters in March.

The suspension led to a rise in oil prices as the Kurdish exports represent some 0.5 per cent of the global oil supply, and the crude resumption is expected to make the global oil price decline.  

The PKK was formed in the late 1970s by its now-imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan and has fought a four-decade bloody war against the Turkish state demanding greater autonomy for Kurds in South East of the country. 

Its bloody conflict with Ankara has left at least 40,000 people dead since 1984, many of whom were civilians.