Turkey and Iraq have agreed on a common stance against terrorist groups, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday.
He was speaking at a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Ankara. "We have agreed on full cooperation in the fight against terror. We do not differentiate between terror groups. There is no difference between Daesh or the PKK," Erdoğan said.
The president added that bilateral cooperation will be increased to eliminate the PKK from Iraq.
The PKK has used northern Iraq's Qandil mountains region as its headquarters since the 1990s, when it left Lebanon's Bekaa Valley after using it as training grounds for many years.
In addition to training camps and the command-and-control, the PKK has used the Iraqi border with Turkey to infiltrate into Turkish territories.
The terror threats directed by the PKK from the Qandil mountains, located roughly 40 kilometers southeast of the Turkish border in Iraq's Irbil province, prompted a Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) operation on March 10.
Turkish security forces have been in the region since, clearing the terrorists from the area, while Turkish air forces have carried out airstrikes on PKK targets in northern Iraq's Hakurk, Basyan and Avasin regions.
The area has frequently been targeted by the TSK in the last decade, yet a ground operation had not been launched in recent years. The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by the U.S., Turkey and the European Union.
"The fight against terrorism is a primary issue between Iraq and Turkey," Turkey's Ambassador to Baghdad, Fatih Yıldız, told Daily Sabah. He underlined that it is possible to see that the terror group PKK exists not only in northern Iraq but also in areas like Sinjar and Kirkuk.
"The exemplary cooperation [between Turkey and Iraq] in the fight against Daesh should be maintained in the fight against the PKK," Yıldız said.
"Particularly along the Iraq-Syria border and in the northwestern Sinjar province, which can be seen as a transit point to Syria, we need to put an end to the PKK's existence. To achieve this, Iraq needs to support us, much like Turkey's support to Iraq in the fight against Daesh," he said.
President Erdoğan added that Turkey is ready to expand cooperation in security, economic and strategic areas; and ready to work with the new government that will be formed in the country.
He also said that preparations to reopen the Turkish consulates in Mosul and Basra were underway. The consulates were closed down after Daesh attacks in 2014.
Abadi, for his part, said Iraq shares the same stance with Turkey on security.
"We are of the same opinion for border security. We do not want any terror groups to be on Iraqi soil. We are against that," Abadi said.
Abadi added that Iraq stands by Turkey and will support all the steps it takes to counter its currency issue, which is a direct result of the recent row between Ankara and Washington.
Immediate needs of Iraqis must be met
Erdoğan said Baghdad has successfully passed the test against both the Daesh threat and the referendum period of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.
"In the new term [in Iraq], it is crucial to meet the immediate demands and needs of the people," Erdoğan said and added that Turkey will support Baghdad when necessary. He added, however, that the violence during the protests in July, after the Iraqi parliamentary elections, was condemned by Turkey.
Turkey stands by Turkmens in Iraq
Erdoğan highlighted that Turkmens in Iraq have been facing targeted violence and that Turkey will continue to stand by them.
"I want to emphasize the importance of the security and safety of our brothers/sisters, particularly by highlighting the attacks Turkmens have been facing in Kirkuk. I believe that establishing an administration and security that is suitable to Kirkuk will contribute to establishing peace." Turkmens, a minority in Iraq, have frequently been the targets of violence, including explosive attacks. In the country's recent parliamentary elections, Turkmens claimed that ballot boxes had been tampered with, leading to even higher interethnic tension in the country.
Water, energy among the most important issuesErdoğan highlighted that stability and prosperity in Iraq is crucial for the stability of Turkey. He added that the issue of scarce resources, water and energy are among the most important issues in the country.
The president added that ministers were appointed to work on the issue of transboundary water and energy issues between the two countries to increase cooperation. Water levels of the Tigris have decreased significantly since June 1, spreading panic among Iraqis who in some places were able to cross the riverbed on foot. Earlier this summer, Turkey postponed filling its massive reservoir for the Ilısu Dam project built on the Tigris River in the southeastern province of Mardin with an estimated investment cost of TL 12 billion ($2.27 billion) to maintain the water flow into its southern neighbor Iraq. Continuing its decades of water policy since the 1980s, Turkey is strictly committed to its agreement with Iraq to maintain the flow of 500 cubic meters of water per second.
Turkey is expected to wait on the impounding process until winter since the drought in Iraq has plagued farmers this season in the south of the country and led to violent protests of government policies, which included restrictions on certain crops that demand high amounts of water.