A new page in Turk­ish-Iraqi re­la­tions


BE­CAUSE of the flu­id­ity of devel­op­ments in the Mid­dle East, al­most ev­ery ac­tor in re­gional crises may have op­posed an­other ac­tor at one stage, while hav­ing co­op­er­ated with them at an­other stage. This is true of Turkey and Iraq in re­cent years.

Ankara turned a deaf ear when Baghdad ex­pressed reser­va­tions about oil ex­ports by the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment (KRG). But the KRG’s in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum pre­pared the ground for Turkey and Iraq to turn a new page; they are now gen­uinely co­op­er­at­ing.

Turk­ish-Iraqi ties were heav­ily af­fected by Ankara’s re­la­tions with the KRG. Baghdad did not op­pose these re­la­tions, but brought to Turkey’s at­ten­tion that ac­cord­ing to Iraqi laws, oil pro­duced in the coun­try is the prop­erty of the Iraqi na­tion, and one seg­ment of its pop­u­la­tion (the Kurds) is not en­ti­tled to ap­pro­pri­ate oil rev­enue.

De­tails of deals made by the KRG with sev­eral coun­tries have been re­ported by the me­dia for sev­eral years. Reuters has been pub­lish­ing ar­ti­cles on this sub­ject since 2014. Ac­cord­ing to these ar­ti­cles, oil pro­duced in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan is ex­ported via a pipeline that runs from Kirkuk to the Turk­ish Mediter­ranean har­bor of Isk­enderun.

The US im­ported its first crude oil cargo from the re­gion in May 2014; Is­rael has done so since the start of that year. Baghdad threat­ened to sue any com­pany in­volved in this trade. Is­rael’s En­ergy Min­istry de­clined to com­ment.

Turk­ish com­pany Pow­er­trans is the bro­ker for the KRG and sell­ing oil via tenders to traders. The deal in­volved many in­ter­na­tional com­mod­ity traders, in­clud­ing Trafigura, one of the world’s lead­ing in­de­pen­dent com­mod­ity trad­ing and lo­gis­tics houses. A spokesman for Trafigura also de­clined to com­ment.

An oil tanker, Mari­noula, un­loaded 265,000 bar­rels Iraqi oil in Hous­ton in May 2014. The iden­tity of the buyer was un­clear. The oil was loaded by the trad­ing com­pany Pe­traco in Dortyol, Turkey. The com­pany de­clined to com­ment. These re­fusals to com­ment are more telling than a de­tailed ac­count of what is go­ing on.

For the time be­ing, Turkey and Iraq are gen­uinely co­op­er­at­ing be­cause they have con­verg­ing in­ter­ests. But an is­sue that casts a shadow on bi­lat­eral re­la­tions is a Turk­ish bat­tal­ion of around 600 sol­diers sta­tioned in Bashiqa, north­ern Iraq. It is more of a sym­bolic pres­ence, but since Baghdad is un­easy about it, the is­sue is likely to be on the agenda sooner or later.

When Iraq de­manded that Turkey with­draw these sol­diers, the lat­ter said they were sta­tioned ac­cord­ing to an agree­ment with the KRG. In the present cir­cum­stances, Ankara can hardly jus­tify it on those grounds.

An­other crit­i­cal is­sue, which is on the back­burner for now, is wa­ter. The wa­ter of the Ti­gris and Euphrates rivers is a source of long­stand­ing con­flict be­tween Turkey, Iraq and Syria. The Euphrates part of the is­sue is more con­tro­ver­sial with Syria. The Ti­gris part is mainly an is­sue with Iraq be­cause the river does not cross Syr­ian ter­ri­tory.

Turkey should be able to solve this prob­lem with Iraq, since it can­not use much of the Ti­gris wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion be­cause the ter­rain is not suit­able for this pur­pose. Dams that Turkey is build­ing on the Ti­gris are mainly for power gen­er­a­tion, mean­ing that wa­ter has to be re­leased down­stream in or­der to gen­er­ate power.

De­spite this, Iraq op­posed con­struc­tion of the Ilisu Dam on the Ti­gris, and per­suaded Aus­trian banks to block the cred­its that Ankara was go­ing to re­ceive from them. Turkey is now con­struct­ing the dam with its own funds, though it is im­peded from time to time by ha­rass­ment by the ter­ror­ist Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party (PKK).

Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider Al-Abadi’s visit to Turkey af­ter the Kur­dish ref­er­en­dum au­gured well be­cause he fo­cused on pos­i­tive as­pects of fu­ture co­op­er­a­tion with­out rais­ing thorny is­sues. Postcri­sis pe­ri­ods usu­ally open up new op­por­tu­ni­ties for co­op­er­a­tion. Hopes are high that Turkey and Iraq will be able to cap­i­tal­ize on them.

QYasar Yakis is a for­mer for­eign min­is­ter of Turkey and found­ing mem­ber of the rul­ing AK Party. Twit­ter: @yak­is_yasar

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saudi Arabia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.