Friday, July 18, 2008

The Beginning of a Hopsitable Friendship . . .

From the Eurasia Daily Monitor:
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent visit to Iraq has initiated a new chapter in bilateral relations. Several problems, including the Kurdish question, the Iraq-Iran war, and Turkey's support of the U.S.-led international coalition during the first Gulf War in 1991, have made relations between Turkey and Iraq bumpy. During the previous visit of a Turkish prime minister to Baghdad 18 years ago, Saddam Hussein harshly criticized Turkey's foreign policy and threatened his guest in front of international media correspondents. For at least the past three decades, Turkish-Iraqi relations have been shaped by regional or border crises. The "strategic, economic cooperation and integration agreement" signed during Erdogan's visit can finally move Turkish-Iraqi relations beyond a crisis-related agenda.

With this agreement, the parties decided to develop institutions between the two countries to build a sustainable relationship. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd himself, thinks that "the agreement of integration" is important for two main reasons. First, integration between Turkey and Iraq would connect the Persian Gulf to Europe. Second, it would open a way to develop a regional economic union, which has the potential to bring democracy and economic prosperity not only to Turkey and Iraq but to the Middle East in general (Milliyet, July 11).

The components of the agreement include regional security, fighting terrorism, controlling the borders, and ensuring joint interests in terms of oil and water resources, border crossings, trade exchanges, cultural activities, and the role of Turkish companies in reconstructing Iraq (BBC Monitoring,, July 11). The agreement calls for the formation of a High Level Cooperation Council. In addition, under the leadership of the two prime ministers, the agreement anticipates holding "strategic council" meeting once a year and three meetings between ministers who work in the same areas (Anadolu Ajansi, July 16). Given that the last high level meeting between the two countries took place 18 years ago, the annual meeting between prime ministers seems to be very good progress.

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