Erdogan visits Iraq with water, oil and security as key issues

In addition to the signing of 24 memoranda of understanding, the meetings focused on the Kurdish Workers' Party 
El primer ministro de Irak, Mohamed Shia al-Sudani (d), y el presidente de Turquía, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, hacen una declaración conjunta a los medios de comunicación en Bagdad el 22 de abril de 2024 – PHOTO/Thaier al-Sudani/POOL/AFP
Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (r) and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan make a joint statement to the media in Baghdad on April 22, 2024 - PHOTO/Thaier al-Sudani/POOL/AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Baghdad on Monday on his first state visit to Iraq in more than a decade, with water, oil and thorny regional security issues at the centre of the meetings. 

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani greeted Erdogan on his arrival at Baghdad airport in a ceremony of great pomp. 

The visit comes at a time of high tension in the Middle East over the war in Gaza and fears of escalation between Israel and Iran. 

Erdogan and Sudani returned to the traditional positions of their countries, while stressing the issues on which they could work together. 

Sudani welcomed the signing of a 'strategic framework agreement' to 'build lasting cooperation in all fields' through standing committees on 'security, energy and economy'. 

In addition to the signing of 24 memoranda of understanding, the meetings focused in particular on the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK). 

For decades Turkey has operated military bases in northern Iraq to fight this rebel group, which Ankara and its allies in the West consider a "terrorist organisation". 

The central government in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish authorities have been accused of tolerating Turkey's military activities to protect economic ties with Ankara. 

"We have discussed common measures that can be taken against the PKK and its extensions, which attack Turkey from Iraqi territory," Erdogan told a joint press conference. 

"I have conveyed to my counterparts my firm conviction that the PKK's presence on Iraqi territory will come to an end more quickly, if it is officially declared a terrorist organisation," he insisted. 

Water is another hot topic, as dams built by Turkey on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers have aggravated water shortages in Iraq. 

The two countries signed another 10-year agreement on this issue, with the aim of "improving water management" on the two rivers, Sudani said, to achieve a "common and fair administration of water resources". 

Also on the agenda was the "Development Road", an ambitious 1,200 km road and rail project linking the Gulf with Turkey via Iraq by 2030. 

On Monday, in the presence of Erdogan and Sudani, four ministers representing Iraq, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar signed a "quadripartite memorandum of understanding" regarding their cooperation on this project, according to an Iraqi press release. 

After Baghdad, the Turkish leader also travelled to Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Kurdistan.