Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is scheduled to be paying an official visit to Iraq today to enhance bilateral relations through high-level meetings, where he is expected to meet the country's newly-elected president and members of the Turkmens community.
During his two-day official visit, Çavuşoğlu is expected to meet Iraqi President Barham Salih, the Foreign Ministry statement said yesterday. The minister is also expected to meet an number of Iraqi political leaders and representatives of the Turkmens community, and hold high-level meetings in Erbil.
It is expected that relations between Ankara and Erbil, which were strained following the independence referendum last year in Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), will gain a new momentum through this visit. Çavuşoğlu will also warn the KRG administration against the PKK, since the Turkmens are uncomfortable with the terrorist organization's activities in the region.
Last year on Sept. 25, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq held an independence referendum, which had angered Ankara. Tensions rose in the region when Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly voted to secede. The referendum faced sharp opposition from most regional and international actors, including Iraq's neighbors - Turkey and Iran.
During the visit, Turkey-Iraq relations in all aspects are expected to be discussed, including bilateral cooperation opportunities. The reconstruction of Iraq, particularly the latest situation of Ovaköy border gate that is planned to be built in northern Iraq will be discussed, the statement added.
The operations of the Turkish military in northern Iraq will also be one of the main subjects of the meeting, since it will be highlighted that they are being conducted against the PKK terrorist organization and Turkey is respectful to the territorial integrity of Iraq.
The Qandil mountains, located roughly 40 kilometers southeast of the Turkish border in Erbil province, are being used as the headquarters of the PKK and its Iranian affiliate, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), although the area is under the de jure contr
ol of the KRG.
The area has frequently been hit by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in the last decade. The Turkish army has also intensified operations in the Qandil mountains since March, entering about 20 kilometers into Iraqi territory.