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 Turkish PM in Iraq to boost neighbourly ties

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Turkish PM in Iraq to boost neighbourly ties  28.3.2011  

March 28, 2011

BAGHDAD, — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived Monday in Baghdad on a visit aimed at boosting political and economic ties between the two neighbours, state television said.

The Turkish leader, who heads a large business delegation, is on a two-day visit to Iraq, his first since October 2009, television reported.

Erdogan, who is also accompanied by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, will also travel to Iraq's northern autonomous Kurdistan region, the first Turkish prime minister to do so.

The fight against the Turkey Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has rear-bases in the border area,
www.ekurd.netwill also be discussed during Erdogan's visit, according to sources in Ankara.

Since 1984, the Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country.                    

Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki (L) greets Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Baghdad. March 28, 2011. Photo: AA
But now its aim is the creation an autonomous region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

Turkey has repeatedly accused Iraqi Kurds of turning a blind eye to activity within Iraq by the PKK but their leaders have been careful no to anger the larger neighbour.

Iraq's Turkmen politicians told AFP that Erdogan will also attempt to broker talks between ethnic Turkmen and Kurds over their rival claims to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh called Erdogan’s two-day trip an important visit and said the Turkish premier also will meet Tuesday with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani — Iraqi-based Shiism’s highest ranking cleric in the Middle East.

Political observers in Baghdad believe Sistani may ask Erdogan to act as a mediator in Bahrain, where a Sunni monarchy has cracked down on Shiite-led protesters demanding greater rights and political freedoms. Turkey, which has served as a mediator in many regional conflicts under Erdogan, is also maintaining contacts with both sides in the fighting between Libyan rebels and Moammar Gadhafi’s forces in an attempt to arrange a cease-fire.

Turkish firms provide some 80 percent of the Kurdish region's food and clothes, and trade rose 30 percent between 2008 and 2009. Overall Iraq-Turkish trade, much of which passes through Kurdistan, amounted to seven billion dollars in 2009.

Kurdish populations live in northeastern Syria [western Kurdistan] and western Iran [eastern Kurdistan] as well as southeastern Turkey [northern Kurdistan] and northern Iraq [southern Kurdistan].

Copyright ©, respective author or news agency, AFP | AP | | Agencies 


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