Damaged relations between Turkey and Iraq will be rebuilt following Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi's visit to Ankara on Thursday, academics said. Serhat Erkmen, an associate professor of international relations at Ahi Evran University, said the two countries need to fix bilateral relations. "Iraq and Turkey could not have continued their tense relations anyway, because they need each other," Erkmen told The Anadolu Agency. During Nouri al-Maliki's tenure, who served as Iraq's prime minister from 2006 to 2014, relations were tense. The former premier and his government were widely criticized for discrimination on ethnic and religious grounds.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that when Maliki was prime minister, "every little thing turned into an issue and a problem," but matters are quite different under Abadi's leadership. Erkmen also said the new Iraqi government wants to fix damaged relations with Turkey through "a sensitive tinkering" strategy.
"In terms of energy and money issues, Turkey is a vital export market for Iraq to the world," Erkmen said. "Mutual benefits are on the table as well." In Thursday's joint press conference, Abadi said Iraq wants its oil to reach the global market via Turkey. Iraq's crude oil distribution keeps flowing via Turkey despite threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS). On May 22, northern Iraqi oil began pumping from Turkey's southern Ceyhan port to international markets, despite a harsh reaction from the Baghdad government. A recent oil deal between the Kurdish Regional Government and the Baghdad government in Iraq will soften Baghdad's attitude towards Turkey.
The agreement will allow the federal government to export 300,000 barrels of oil per day from Kirkuk's oil fields through the oil pipeline in the Kurdish region.
Erkmen said that because of the drop in oil prices, Iraq's economy is "really troubled right now." Crude oil prices have fallen almost 50 percent since June and reached $58 a barrel last Tuesday, the lowest level since July 2009. Veysel Ayhan, head of the International Middle East Peace Research Center in Turkey, said the Baghdad government "wants a way out via Turkey."
"The biggest problems were always in the energy field during Maliki's term," Ayhan told The Anadolu Agency. "Helping Turkish companies in Iraq and giving political support to Turkey during these tough times in the region have become very important." Ayhan also said that the High Level Strategic Cooperation Council meeting between the two countries should be held every year and added that political support is crucial. The council between Turkey and Iraq was established in 2008 and launched in 2009, but has not reached its full potential due to political challenges.