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

    South Sudan Sends First Ever Official Olympic Team to Rio

    VOA caught up with Santino Kenyi, 16, one of three athletes who will compete in this year's summer games in Brazil

    Arrest of Malawi's 'Hyena' Man Highlights Clash of Ritual, Health and Women's Rights

    Ritual practice of deflowering young girls is blamed for spreading deadly AIDS virus

    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    VOA finds things Americans take for granted are special to foreigners

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora