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

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs