Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is scheduled to visit Baghdad, Irbil and Basra on April 28-29 to discuss all the aspects of bilateral relations and regional developments.
The foreign minister will hold talks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali al-Hakim along with other high-level Iraqi officials in Baghdad. Çavuşoğlu will also hold talks with the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Irbil, where relations between Ankara and Irbil will be reviewed in detail after Turkey had strongly opposed a unilateral referendum for the independence of the KRG in September 2017. The minister's visit to different regions in Iraq shows Turkey's commitment to the country, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said on Friday.
During his visit, Çavuşoğlu will also meet Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. The minister will also come together with the representatives of the Turkmen community.
The visit by the minister to the oil-rich country comes after the U.S. announced that it is ending exemptions from unilateral sanctions for a number of countries importing oil from Iran, including Turkey. Reports suggest an increase in the volume of crude oil Turkey imports from Iraq in order to compensate for the Iranian product. Iraq is predicted to be the fourth-largest oil producer by 2023, according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The foreign minister's Iraq tour comes following the visit of the Turkish contractors to Iraq on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Turkish contractors participated in the 11th International Building & Construction Exhibition held in Irbil on April 22-25 and sought opportunities to actively engage in the reconstruction of Iraq. Last year, Turkey pledged $5 billion for the reconstruction of the war-torn country.
Minister Çavuşoğlu is also expected to discuss the issue of water management with Iraqi officials during his visit to Iraq.
The equitable share of water in the Tigris has been a protracted issue between Turkey and Iraq, and Turkey has come to stress that it does not want water management to become a problem between the two neighbors. Therefore, Turkey stopped water retention in its major Ilısu Dam and released water for Iraqi citizens who suffered from drought last year since Iraq asked for a larger share of the river's flow amid shortages, particularly in the southern province of Basra.
Between 1984 and 2009, Turkey, Syria and Iraq had negotiated the management of transboundary waters. In 1984, Turkey proposed a three-stage plan for optimal, equitable and reasonable utilization of the transboundary waters of the Euphrates-Tigris basin.
Yet, the plan was rejected by Syria and Iraq, who took a different approach to the basin area between the three countries. While Turkey considered the Euphrates-Tigris basin as a whole system, the two others wanted to categorize it as two separate basins during the negotiations after the establishment of Joint Technical Committee (JTC) in 1983.
After several bilateral and trilateral meetings and provisional agreements, Turkey inked a memorandum of understanding with Iraq and Syria in 2009. The agreement stipulated the monitoring of water resources, joint projects and protocols and fighting climate change while continuing the flow of water 500 cubic meters per second to both Syria and Iraq.