During Erdogan’s visit, Turkey, Iraq, UAE, Qatar sign transport agreement worth $20B

ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Baghdad on Monday for the first time in nearly 13 years to sign an agreement between Turkey, Iraq, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates on a major transport project linking Iraq to Europe. protocol.

Erdogan met with Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid and Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sultany in the Iraqi capital, the first stop of a one-day tour of Iraq that also took him to Kurdistan Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region.

“I believe that my visit and the agreement just signed will mark a new turning point in our relations,” Erdogan said at a joint news conference with Sultani.

The highlight of the visit was the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Turkish and Iraqi officials and representatives from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates on the so-called “development path plan.”

Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are two potential sponsors of the estimated $20 billion transport link, which would run 1,275 kilometers (792 miles) by road and rail from Iraq’s oil-rich southern Basra province to Turkey.

During the visit, Iraq and Turkey also signed the Joint Cooperation Strategic Framework Agreement, paving the way for further cooperation on multiple issues, in addition to signing 24 memorandums of understanding covering various fields such as energy, trade and water sharing. .

Sultani told a news conference that under the long-disputed framework agreement on water sharing between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers between Ankara and Baghdad, the two countries will implement joint plans including modernizing Iraq’s irrigation system.

“The agreement will last for 10 years and will ensure joint and equal management of water resources,” he added. Iraqi authorities have long blamed Turkey’s construction of dams on the river for causing water levels to drop on the Iraqi side, exacerbating the country’s drought problem. Ankara believes that Iraqi authorities need to halt the country’s irrigation technology to use water more efficiently.

Sajad Jiyad, a Baghdad-based political analyst and fellow at the Century Foundation, said the visit was a good start. “I think the signing ceremony for the project shows high-level interest in the project and that all four countries are very keen to get the project up and running as soon as possible,” he told Al-Monitor.

Erdogan’s trip comes after the Iraqi government unexpectedly partially accepted Turkey’s long-standing demand in March to ban the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The outlawed militants, based in the mountains of northern Iraq, have been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey since the early 1980s and are considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

security frontier

Turkey’s series of military operations called “Claw Lock” against PKK positions in northern Iraq since 2019 have also caused tensions between Ankara and Baghdad. Baghdad believes that Turkey’s military presence and actions on Iraqi soil violate the country’s sovereignty.

Analysts believe Baghdad’s ban on the PKK reflects the Iraqi central government’s desire to have a greater say in Turkish operations.

Ahead of last week’s visit, Turkey’s Defense Ministry reiterated its determination to expand military operations in northern Iraq. Ankara has also sought to establish a joint operations center with Baghdad.

Speaking at a press conference, Erdogan reiterated Iraq’s demand that Iraq designate the armed group as a terrorist organization. Sudani reiterated that his government would not allow Iraqi territory to be used to attack neighboring countries.

Erdogan last visited Iraq in 2011.

“In a sense, Turkey and Iraq support different sides of the Syrian civil war,” Duman told Al-Monitor. While Turkey supports Syrian rebels against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, Iraq does, Duman said. The central government has taken a closer stance with the Syrian regime and its allies Iran and Russia. “This is the result of Iran’s growing influence in Iraq,” he noted.

But after elections in 2021, “Iraq’s central government has begun to pursue a more balanced foreign policy, and Turkey stands out as one of the countries that helps it ensure this balanced policy,” he added.

This developing story has been updated since its original publication.

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