News / Middle East

Turkey-Iraq Relations Warming Over Regional Concerns

FILE - Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
FILE - Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Dorian Jones
Over the past year, the leaders of Turkey and Iraq have exchanged hostile barbs, accusing each other of sectarianism. But relations now seem to warming.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at a recent joint news briefing in Istanbul with visiting Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari that Turkey always considered Iraqi-Turkish relations as key to stability in the region.

Zebari’s visit to Ankara, and Davutoglu’s announcement that he will be traveling to Baghdad, suggest the two countries are renewing ties after a tense period.

Semih Idiz is a diplomatic columnist for the Turkish newspaper Taraf and al-Monitor website. He says a shared concern over al-Qaida-linked terrorism is behind the warming relations.

"A common threat is emerging, especially as a result of Syria, with extremism that [is] al-Qaida related. Iraq is certainly suffering from these almost on a daily basis. And the threat has started to loom larger for Turkey, although Ankara supported or turned a blind eye to al-Qaida-related elements initially in the Syrian crisis," said Idiz.

But important obstacles to a rapprochement remain.

Ankara gave safe haven Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a prominent Sunni leader who was sentenced to death in Baghdad after a court held him responsible for running death squads that carried out hundreds of attacks on political opponents, security officials and religious pilgrims.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki saw Ankara’s decision to give Hashemi safe haven as a direct intervention in his country’s domestic affairs.

Another point of tension is the Turkish government's deepening economic relations with the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan regional government, or KRG.

Turkey shares a border with the Iraqi Kurdistan region, and Ankara is keen to utilize the KRG’s large energy resources to help meet its growing need for oil and gas. Baghdad, which has an ongoing dispute with the Iraqi Kurdish leadership over control of energy resources, has criticized Ankara’s deepening relations with the KRG.

Washington, a close ally of Ankara, has warned the Turkish government against making any energy deal with the Iraqi Kurds that excludes Baghdad.

Sinan Ulgen, a research fellow at the Carnegie Institute in Brussels, says Ankara has heeded the warning.

"There has been now and even very recently a set of ambitious deals between Ankara and the KRG regarding the leverage of these oil and gas resources. And therefore Ankara wants to also get Baghdad on board so that the right environment for investments, for bringing these resources to Western markets, can emerge with the support of Baghdad," said Ulgen.

Murat Bilhan, a former Turkish ambassador and vice chairman of the Turkish think tank TASAM, says that despite Ankara and Baghdad being pressed to improve relations, the recent tensions have resulted in mutual mistrust.

"They should trust us and we should trust them, but it is not yet exactly a fact on the ground ... So it’s a difficult case. Not intractable, but there is a long way to go," said Bilhan.

Diplomatic meetings held in recent weeks are seen as key to helping bridge that trust gap. Observers say a real sign of progress will be a visit by Prime Minister Maliki to Turkey, which could occur as early as next month.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More