Iraq’s Turkey envoy talks region poll, border security


Iraq's ambassador to Turkey on Friday held a press conference at which he discussed last week's illegitimate poll on Kurdish regional independence, Iraq-Turkey cooperation in the energy sector, and joint military drills between the two countries.

Speaking at the Iraqi embassy in Ankara, Hisham al-Alawi said Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım would soon visit Baghdad, stressing that both governments stood to benefit from face-to-face meetings.

Regarding the illegal Sept. 25 poll, he said: "Iraq's central government clearly opposed the referendum, which violated Iraq's constitution, while Iraq's neighbors -- and the international community -- have all taken similar stands against it."

Al-Alawi added that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's recent assertions that the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) had exported oil for an 18-month period -- without Baghdad's consent -- had served to put pressure on KRG President Masoud Barzani.

"Our government," the ambassador said, "is doing its best to prevent any possible negative effects from the referendum on Kurdish citizens".

When asked about oil exchanges between Baghdad and Ankara, al-Alawi said the two countries were in the process of drafting a new memorandum of understanding in this regard.

"I hope the draft MoU will be finalized soon," he said.

Noting that Baghdad was hoping for a win-win deal between the two countries, al-Alawi asserted: "The MoU won't only include issues relating to oil and gas, but will also aim to improve cooperation in the electricity field."

According to al-Alawi, Iraq and Turkey are also cooperating closely with a view to securing the Habur border crossing between the two countries.

"We will use force if necessary to secure the crossing; the military drills are a preparation for this," he said.

"We are also mulling the possibility of opening a new border crossing," he added, with a view to raising the volume of bilateral trade.

"We will take concrete steps in this regard in the months ahead," al-Alawi said, adding that the issue had come up for discussion several times in recent years.

He also said that Iraq and Turkey were discussing stepped-up security and military cooperation, including the ongoing fight against the PKK terrorist group and oil/gas pipeline security.

"Iraqi Chief-of-Staff Osman al-Ghanimi's recent visit to Turkey is a clear indication of Baghdad's desire to improve military and intelligence cooperation with Ankara," al-Alawi said.

"But this cooperation cannot materialize until the Bashiqa Camp issue is addressed and resolved," he added, referring to Turkey's military base in northern Iraq.

The ambassador concluded by saying Baghdad had three priorities.

"The first is to stop international flights to the Kurdish region, which we did; the second is to secure the Habur border crossing; and the third is to halt all oil and gas movement, which remains under discussion by both sides," he said.

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