Last week Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met to discuss the exportation of Iraq’s oil from Kirkuk to Turkey as well as establishing future trade routes. In addition to the talk of trade, the two leaders spoke about Turkey’s currency crisis, and it’s border security situation. Iraq and Turkey have much to gain from cooperation, but given that neither nation is particularly strong at the moment, whether or not they have the ability to follow through remains to be seen.
Presently Turkey is dealing with a very serious financial crisis as the lira has depreciated drastically recently. The sanctions put in place by the U.S. on Iran and new tariffs against Turkey have seriously messed with the Turkish economy. Much of it has been over Turkey’s refusal to release an imprisoned American pastor that is being held under charges of terrorism. Prime Minister Abadi stated to local press that, “Mr. Erdogan reiterated that Turkey will provide Iraq with its full share of water. There were discussions between the ministerial delegations as well today to stress on the same matter.” He added that, “We are with Turkey in its monetary crisis. Through cooperation, we can overcome many of the challenges facing us. This will contribute to bolstering investment and social, cultural, and political ties between the two countries greatly.”
Water has always been Iraq’s primary concern in the negotiations — given the nationwide protests occurring this summer. Based on the United Nations reports, Iraq gets 80% of its water through neighboring countries; most of it is from Turkey and Iran. President Erdogan stated that, “The biggest issues in Iraq are water and energy issues. We discussed in detail these regards, and the relevant ministers are meeting.” Prime Minister Abadi’s office stated that, “[I]n addition to the importance of relations between the two countries, strengthening them, rebuilding Iraq and Turkey committing to what it announced in the Kuwait conference.”
Prime Minister Abadi also disclosed that Iraq had plans to partner with Turkey on border control. This has been a serious issue between the two nations given Turkey’s crusade against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and that the PKK headquarters is situated in the northern Iraqi region of Qandil. Turkey has repeatedly threatened to invade that particular region without Iraq’s consent to destroy the PKK. Prime Minister Abadi said, “In the security case, and the topic of controlling the border, our stance is clear in that we reject all assaults starting from Iraqi territory on the neighbor Turkey or any of Iraq’s neighbors.” In reference to this situation, Abadi added that, “We denounce such aggression and stand against it.” Time will tell if both sides are just blowing smoke, or if they intend to follow through with the big talk.