ABADI’S VISIT TO TURKEYIraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Ankara on Dec. 25-26 accompanied by six ministers.

If the reciprocal good will expressed during this visit is sustained, a new era may open up in the bilateral relations between Turkey and Iraq.A High Level Strategic Cooperation Council had been established between the two countries in 2008 but has since remained dormant.

The meetings of the council have now resumed under the incumbent prime ministers.The subjects discussed during this council meeting include:SecurityIn the field of security, both sides agreed to cooperate, primarily in fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Intelligence sharing with Iraq and the training of peshmerga fighters to be provided by Turkey was already agreed to during Prime Minister Ahmet Davutogluand#39s recent visit to Baghdad on Nov. 20.

During Abadiand#39s visit to Ankara, Davutoglu reiterated this position. andldquoTurkey will continue to provide all kinds of support to Iraq in the fight against the terrorist groups in the region.

Our countries share the same approach against these groups, including ISIL and the Kurdistan Workersand#39 Party [PKK],andrdquo he said. Each countryand#39s defense ministries will continue to discuss this subject.

DavutoIlu alluded to previous Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malikiand#39s policy of alienating Iraqi Sunnis as the main reason for the emergence of ISIL. The Iraqi delegation felt uncomfortable with the remark as the Abadi regime disagrees with such an assessment.

Sunni groups held a meeting in Iraq on Dec. 18 with Usama al-Nujayfi, the Sunni vice president of Iraq, and issued a statement asking the Baghdad authorities to support them in the formation of combat units to fight ISIL and to declare a general amnesty for Sunni political prisoners in Iraq.

Baghdad authorities believe that Turkey was behind these statements, which came immediately before Abadiand#39s visit to Ankara According to the news leaked from the meetings, when Turkey raised the question of giving more rights to Sunnis, Abadi made a short comment by pointing out that new steps were taken to give Sunnis their rights, refraining from further elaboration.EnergyAbadi emphasized his eagerness to develop Iraqand#39s ties with Turkey in economic, political, commercial, security and military fields while andldquorespecting the sovereignty of both countries.

andrdquo This reference to sovereignty is an allusion to the Iraqi concern about the deal between Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq for the export of oil produced in northern Iraq.Despite this sensitivity, Abadi also said that Iraq wants to export its oil to world markets through Turkey.

If this is a genuine wish, it may lead to the revival of the old Basra-Baghdad-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which will provide an additional route for southern Iraqi oil to Western markets.The Maliki government had previously cancelled the permits issued to the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO), but there was no direct reference to this question at the press conference after the meeting of the two prime ministers.

It is possible that normalization may be expected on this subject under Abadiand#39s government.Economic relationsTurkish-Iraqi economic relations were negatively affected by Malikiand#39s decision to exclude Turkish companies from $500 billion worth of infrastructure works to be constructed in Iraq.

Turkey expects that this ban will be lifted by Abadi.Transboundary watersAn area where the two countries do not see eye-to-eye were the transboundary waters.

Iraq is trying to obtain a promise for a guaranteed quantity of water to be released by Turkey in the River Tigris. The international practice in this field is to use water in an andldquoequitable and reasonableandrdquo manner, but the parties could not agree on what constitutes andldquoequitable and reasonable.

andrdquoAbadiand#39s visit will be followed by the visit of the Iraqi President Fuad Masum to Ankara President Masumand#39s visit may further consolidate Turkish-Iraqi relations, but some scars may remain after the recent difficulties in bilateral relations.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman