Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Hakan Fidan arrived in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq on Thursday. He is meeting with key officials in Erbil. The trip to Erbil comes after Fidan was in Baghdad earlier this week in Baghdad he met with Iraqi counterparts and discussed a new permanent joint committee that will be established to deal with water issues that affect Iraq.
Rivers such as the Tigris and Euphrates that feed Iraq are impacted by Turkey’s dams and water policy. More important issues are on the agenda for Ankara though, Turkey has forces that operate in northern Iraq and Ankara has major trade in the Kurdistan region.
Fidan was greeted on arrival in Erbil by various officials included the governor of Erbil and the region’s minister of interior, head of the foreign relations department. Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani received Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and his accompanying delegation, local media said.
He arrived at Erbil airport, which was built with assistance from a Turkish years ago. Turkish businesses play a major role in northern Iraq, including in the tourism and banking sectors. According to Rudaw media in Erbil “a number of lingering issues have been the top agenda of the minister's meeting with Iraqi officials, including the resumption of Kurdistan Region’s halted oil export through the Turkish Ceyhan port; Iraq’s water quota from the major twin rivers of Tigris and Euphrates whose declining levels pose serious challenges to the environment; the ongoing conflict between Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkish forces.”
What other politicians arrived in Erbil?
The Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Alparslan Bayraktar also arrived in Erbil early Thursday. This illustrates the importance Ankara is placing on its investments and interests in the Kurdistan region. Alparslan met with Iraqi oil minister Hayan Abdul Ghani recently. Ankara wants to see oil continue to flow from the Kurdistan region to Turkey.
Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani received Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in the capital Erbil, Rudaw reported on Thursday. “Fidan, who will also meet with Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani in Erbil in the afternoon, is expected to meet with Iraqi Turkmen Front and Islamic Unity Party officials as part of his visit,” Rudaw noted. Fidan’s visit is important for developments in Iraq and Syria.
The Kurdistan Region is a key partner of the US and many western countries. Turkey has been seeking to eradicate the presence of the PKK in northern Iraq and uses drones to carry out airstrikes. For instance reports say Ankara used drones to carry out an airstrike on Thursday and another strike in Syria this week. This showcases Turkey’s air power and also how it has impunity to operate in Syria and Iraq.
For the authorities in Erbil, this is a balancing act, because they don’t want airstrikes throughout their region but they want warm ties with Ankara.
Nechirvan Barzani also met with Tom Tugendhat, the UK Minister of State for Security, this week as well. They announced a Memorandum of Understanding that is intended to combat the drug trade, Rudaw noted.
Top US Central Command general Michael Kurilla is also in Syria this week. US forces use facilities in northern Iraq, particularly at Erbil airport, as part of their continuing anti-ISIS operations. US Consul General Mark Stroh also met with Masoud Barzani recently in Erbil where he welcomed Barzani’s role in deepening historic relations between the Kurdistan Region and the US, Kurdistan24 reported.
Turkey’s president is expected to visit Iraq at some time in the future.