Turkish PM in Iraq to boost neighbourly
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
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
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
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
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
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
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