Iraq, Türkiye to Elevate Security, Economic Ties after Erdogan Visit

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani shake hands as they attend a press conference, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani shake hands as they attend a press conference, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP)
TT

Iraq, Türkiye to Elevate Security, Economic Ties after Erdogan Visit

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani shake hands as they attend a press conference, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani shake hands as they attend a press conference, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said relations with Iraq were entering a new phase after the neighbors agreed to cooperate against Kurdish militants, boost economic ties via a new trade corridor and consider Iraq's needs for access to scarce water.

Erdogan was in Iraq on a long-awaited visit, the first by a Turkish leader since 2011, following years of strained relations as Ankara ramped up cross-border operations against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants based in mountainous, mainly Kurdish northern Iraq.

"I shared my belief that the PKK's presence in Iraq will end. We discussed the joint steps we can take against the terrorist organization PKK and its extensions targeting Türkiye," Erdogan said at a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in Baghdad.

The two countries agreed to a strategic framework agreement overseeing security, trade and energy as well as a 10-year deal on the management of water resources that would take Iraq's needs into account, Sudani said.

Sudani said the two countries would cooperate to bolster border security and act against non-state armed groups that could be working with terrorist organizations. He did not mention the PKK specifically.

An Iraqi government spokesperson said PKK members were welcome in Iraq so long as they did not engage in political activism or carry weapons. He did not elaborate.

The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 and is designated a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies. Türkiye has conducted a series of cross-border operations against the group in northern Iraq since 2019.

Ankara plans a new swoop on the militants this spring and has sought Iraqi cooperation, in the form of a joint operations room, as well as recognition by Baghdad of the PKK threat.

"Iraq must eradicate all sorts of terror," the Turkish presidency said in a statement after Erdogan held talks with Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid, the most senior Kurdish official in Iraq.

Rashid said Baghdad backed joint work to fight terrorism and was against its territory being used to attack any neighbors, But Rashid opposed any attacks on its soil.

Iraq has in recent months tried to assuage Türkiye’s concerns about the PKK while pursuing its own agenda focused on growing economic ties and increasing access to scarce water from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that originate in Türkiye, amid growing drought at home.

DEVELOPMENT ROAD

Iraq and Türkiye signed more than 20 MoUs during Erdogan's one-day visit on everything from cultural and agricultural cooperation to education and health, a statement from Sudani's office said.

Erdogan and Sudani also oversaw the signing of a four-way memorandum of understanding between Türkiye, Iraq, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates for joint cooperation on Iraq's $17 billion Development Road project, with Qatari and Emirati ministers in attendance.

Launched last year, the 1,200-km (745-mile) road and rail project aims to turn Iraq into a transit hub, connecting Asia and Europe with a link between Iraq's Grand Faw Port in the oil-rich south and Türkiye in the north.

Türkiye’s bilateral trade with Iraq was worth $19.9 billion in 2023, down from $24.2 billion in 2022, official Turkish data showed. In the first three months of 2024, Turkish exports to Iraq rose by 24.5%, while imports fell by 46.2%.

After meetings in Baghdad, Erdogan was set to travel to Erbil, the provincial capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, for talks with Iraqi Kurdish officials.



US Military Pier Operations in Gaza Suspended after Piece Breaks Off

US Navy personnel construct a JLOTS, which stands for "Joint Logistics Over-the Shore" temporary pier which will provide a ship-to-shore distribution system to help deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza, in an undated handout picture in the Mediterranean Sea. (US Central Command/Handout via Reuters/File Photo)
US Navy personnel construct a JLOTS, which stands for "Joint Logistics Over-the Shore" temporary pier which will provide a ship-to-shore distribution system to help deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza, in an undated handout picture in the Mediterranean Sea. (US Central Command/Handout via Reuters/File Photo)
TT

US Military Pier Operations in Gaza Suspended after Piece Breaks Off

US Navy personnel construct a JLOTS, which stands for "Joint Logistics Over-the Shore" temporary pier which will provide a ship-to-shore distribution system to help deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza, in an undated handout picture in the Mediterranean Sea. (US Central Command/Handout via Reuters/File Photo)
US Navy personnel construct a JLOTS, which stands for "Joint Logistics Over-the Shore" temporary pier which will provide a ship-to-shore distribution system to help deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza, in an undated handout picture in the Mediterranean Sea. (US Central Command/Handout via Reuters/File Photo)

A part of the US military's pier off Gaza has broken off, rendering it temporarily inoperable, two US officials said, in the latest blow to efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

The US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said bad weather was believed to be the reason that the part had broken off. They did not say how big the part was or speculate on how long it would take for the pier to resume operations.

The pier was announced by US President Joe Biden in March and involved the military assembling the floating structure off the coast. Estimated to cost $320 million for the first 90 days and involve about 1,000 US service members, it went into operation two weeks ago.

Since the pier began operations, the United Nations has transported 137 trucks of aid from the pier - the equivalent of 900 metric tons - said a UN World Food Program (WFP) spokesperson.