Iraq, Turkey foreign ministers discuss water, oil and the PKK

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Turkey’s foreign minister visited Baghdad on Tuesday for talks with his counterpart on water supplies, resuming Kurdish oil exports to Turkey and the presence of PKK fighters in Iraq.

Hakan Fidan’s visit to Baghdad and Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region will prepare a trip by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for which a date has not yet been announced.

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The issue of water and dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, both of which have their sources in Turkey before entering Iraq, is a particularly sensitive topic for the two countries.

Iraq has seen an alarming fall in the level of the two rivers, and blames this reduction on dams upstream in Turkey.

Fidan told a press conference after talks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein that Ankara approaches the issue “from a purely humanitarian perspective.”

“We attach importance to the establishment of an uninterrupted dialogue mechanism based on cooperation in a scientific flow on water,” Fidan said.

His Iraqi counterpart said Fidan had proposed creating a “permanent committee” to discuss the water issue.

He also raised the issue of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rear bases in northern Iraq.

Since 1984, the PKK has waged an insurgency in Turkey that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, and Ankara has long maintained dozens of military bases inside northern Iraq where it regularly launches operations against fighters from the group.

Turkey, and its Western allies, classify the PKK as a “terrorist” group.

“We expect Iraq authorities to officially recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization,” Fidan said.

They must not allow the group, “our common enemy, to poison our bilateral relations,” he added.

The two foreign ministers also talked of the imminent resumption of oil exports from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey.

“We hope to find a solution,” Hussein told the press conference.

Oil has long strained relations between authorities in Baghdad, the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan in northern Iraq, and Turkey.

In late March, after years of independent oil exports via Turkey, the Kurdish regional government had to accept an international tribunal’s ruling granting Baghdad the right to oversee all Iraqi oil exports.

After the court ruling, Turkey blocked the transit of Kurdish oil through its pipelines.

In May, Baghdad said it was awaiting a final agreement with Ankara before it could resume oil exports, but financial questions remain unresolved.

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