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

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs