Turkey's Erdogan signs security pact with Iraq against PKK during rare visit

Turkey's Erdogan signs security pact with Iraq against PKK during rare visit
During Erdogan's last visit in 2011, Iraq and Turkey signed several strategic pacts regarding security, water and development. 
5 min read
22 April, 2024
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as they attend the signing of a four-way memorandum of understanding between Iraq, Turkey, Qatar, and the UAE to cooperate in the Development Road. [Getty]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Baghdad on Monday for his first state visit to Iraq since 2011. During his meetings with top Iraqi officials, Erdogan discussed water, oil, regional security, and Iraq's Road of Development. 

Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani greeted Erdogan with a 21-gun salute at Baghdad's international airport, and state television showed a marching band playing the Iraqi and Turkish national anthems.

"Iraq and Turkey have signed a strategic security pact, as well as another agreement on water sharing between Iraq and Turkey," PM Sudani said in a joint press conference with Erdogan in Baghdad. "We will not let anyone launch attacks on the neighbouring countries from our territories, and we will not let anyone breach our sovereignty."

Sudani also said that a quadrilateral memorandum of understanding between Iraq, Turkey, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates has been signed to establish the necessary frameworks for implementing the Strategic Development Road project.

 The Iraqi PM's media office said the signing took place in the presence of members of the Turkish and Iraqi delegations, including ministers and advisors. 

Erdogan stressed that they had signed a strategy security pact against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Gulen Movement with Iraq, emphasising that Iraq had formally recognised the PKK as a "terrorist" organisation.  

He also said they have established permanent committees to address water issues, Iraq's water scarcity, environmental issues, and the development of the trade, tourism, and education sectors.

Both leaders called for an end to Israel's indiscriminate war on Gaza and also called for de-escalation in the Middle East region.   

The Turkish leader also met with Iraqi President Abdel Latif Rashid in Baghdad. The Iraqi president reaffirmed Iraq's desire to cultivate strong ties with Turkey across various domains, emphasising the importance of dialogue and cooperation to address shared challenges, Rashid's media office said.   

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The president underscored Iraq's commitment to combatting terrorism and ensuring regional security while also emphasising the imperative of respecting Iraq's sovereignty and national security, the office added. 

In response, President Erdogan expressed his appreciation for the warm reception and highlighted the significance of bilateral relations between Turkey and Iraq. He reiterated Turkey's steadfast support for Iraq in various spheres, including counterterrorism efforts and economic development initiatives. President Erdogan affirmed Turkey's understanding of Iraq's water needs and pledged to collaborate to address them effectively.

Iraq's deputy PM for Energy Affairs and Oil Minister Hayan Abdul Ghani, Minister of Environment Nazar Mohammed Said, and Fares Issa, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Representation in Baghdad, as well as Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, and National Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, among other senior officials, attended the meeting.

In a parallel development, Qatari Minister of Transport Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti and Emirati Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Sohail Al Mazrouei arrived in Baghdad on Monday, coinciding with President Erdogan's visit, highlighting the regional significance of the diplomatic engagements underway for carrying out the Route of Development project. 

On Monday, Sudani and Erdogan presided over a quadrilateral memorandum of understanding signing ceremony between Iraq, Turkey, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The ceremony aimed to cooperate regarding the "Strategic Development Road" project. The Iraqi PM's media office said the signing took place in the presence of members of the Turkish and Iraqi delegations, including ministers and advisors. 

The memorandum included the commitment of the signatory countries to establish the necessary frameworks for implementing the project.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state and is considered a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies, has a presence in northern Iraq, as does the Turkish military. The PKK, formed in the late 1970s, seeks Kurdish autonomy in Turkey.

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"Iraq and Turkey need more cooperation to implement the Route of Development, and the most important obstacle in front of the project is security because there are concerns that the PKK militants are a danger and hindrance to the route. Hence, an expected security deal between Baghdad and Ankara would aim to secure the route," Yassin Taha, a Kurdish political observer, recently told The New Arab.

"Another topic that is expected to be discussed is Iraq's efforts to resume its northern oil exports to Turkey bypassing the Kurdistan region's oil pipeline to Turkey," Taha noted, clarifying that Iraq is concerned about halting 80 per cent of its oil exports via the Gulf if the current tensions between Iran and Israel lead to Tehran's closure of the Strait of Hormuz to the international oil markets.
Erdogan will also visit Erbil, the capital of northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan Region.

Iraqi oil exports are another point of tension, with a significant pipeline shut down for over a year over legal disputes and technical issues.
The exports were previously independently sold by the autonomous Kurdistan region through the Turkish port of Ceyhan without the approval or oversight of the central administration in Baghdad.

The halted oil sales represent more than US$14 billion in lost revenues for Iraq, according to an estimate by the Association of the Petroleum Industry of Kurdistan, representing international oil companies active in the region.

The trip comes as regional tensions spiral, fuelled by the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip and attacks between Israel and Iran.
The sharing of water resources is a significant point of contention, with Baghdad highly critical of upstream dams set up by Turkey on their shared Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which have worsened water scarcity in Iraq.

The Development Road project is a US$17 billion road and rail project expected to consolidate economic ties between the two neighbours.

Stretching 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) across Iraq, it aims to connect by 2030 the northern border with Turkey to the Gulf in the south.

In the first quarter of 2024, Iraq was Turkey's fifth-largest importer of products, buying food, chemicals, metals and other products.

For decades, Turkey has operated from several dozen military bases in northern Iraq against the PKK.