Turkish FM in Iraq to push for ‘fresh start’ in ties

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Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has arrived in Baghdad on Sunday for a series of meetings with top Iraqi officials as the two countries seek a “fresh start” in chilled diplomatic ties.

Relations between Ankara and Baghdad, fell off as the two countries clashed over the war in Syria, Turkey’s ties with Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, and sharp words between their prime ministers.

The two countries in recent weeks have made attempts at a gradual rapprochement with Davutoglu’s visit focused on promoting a "fresh start," as well as on the violence in Syria.

Davutoglu’s two-day visit, which follows a similar trip by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari last month, includes talks with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Zebari, as well as several other officials and political leaders in Baghdad and the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, reported Agence France-Presse.

“They are going to discuss a fresh start to relations,” a Turkish official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“They will mostly discuss bilateral issues, what is happening in the region, and Syria.”

The two countries have disagreed on how to deal with Syria,Turkey has backed opposition groups, while Iraq has insisted it is neutral despite claims it is implicitly backing the Syrian regime.

They have accused each other of inciting sectarian tensions and, at various stages, summoned each other’s ambassadors.

Baghdad has also slammed suggested energy deals between Ankara and the Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

“This marks a resumption of normal relations, and an end to tensions,” Maliki’s spokesman Ali al-Mussawi said before the Turkish minister’s arrival, according to AFP.

“We hope relations will return to their normal state."

“The two countries have joint interests, history and challenges,” he added.

“Warm relations do not mean agreeing on all regional issues ... On those that we have differences, we will talk about them and solve them through dialogue.”

(With AFP)