ANKARA – Turkish Daily News
Although the prime ministers of Turkey and Iraq yesterday pledged to increase the level of bilateral ties and establish a strategic dialogue mechanism, the presence of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in Iraqi territory remains an obstacle to improved relations.
�The PKK is threatening our common future,� Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al-Maliki, which was aired live on Turkish television stations. �We should never allow terrorist elements to poison peace and stability in the region,� he said. �With regards to the terrorism of the PKK, we received support from the Iraqi government ... and the regional Kurdish administration in northern Iraq.� The remarks came in a landmark trip marking the first high-level visit to Baghdad by a Turkish leader since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. �This is a historic visit… The time is right for Turkey and Iraq to develop relations,� said Maliki. The exact timing of Erdoğan's visit to Iraq was not announced until the very last moment. Late Wednesday, it was officially disclosed that the prime minister was going to fly to Baghdad at 8:30 a.m. Thursday (yesterday). But rumors floated that Erdoğan might postpone his Iraq trip as he was supposed to meet at 10:00 a.m. with Interior Minister Beşir Atalay concerning Wednesday's deadly attack outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. But it was later understood that Erdoğan had arrived in Baghdad, something that was considered a trick to disguise the exact time of his landing due to security reasons. In Baghdad, the two leaders signed an agreement to establish a council for strategic cooperation, although it was not immediately clear if any joint measures had been agreed to tackle the PKK. Erdoğan only said both sides wanted to form a security area that would eliminate terrorist threats between the two countries. Under the strategic dialogue mechanism aimed at boosting ties, the countries will exchange visits at the prime ministerial level annually, while the relevant ministerial level trips will take place three times a year. Erdoğan and Maliki will be co-chairmen of the high-level strategic cooperation council. Erdoğan said the mechanism would function just like a single delegation under their leadership and plan the common future with Iraq and expressed belief that it would lead to concrete gains for both sides as a result of coordinated efforts. He emphasized that Turkey wanted to improve relations with Iraq in the fields of politics, security, defense, energy, economy, culture and water resources.
In response to a question, Maliki said the visit was significant to show that dialogue is a must for resolution of problems. �This visit is an indicator of the fact that problems can be resolved through dialogue, not fighting or arms.� In an address to the international community, Erdoğan said without restoring order in Iraq it is not possible to maintain global peace.