Kurdish President Masoud Barzani received the Turkish PM Binali Yildirim in Erbil
Kurdish delegation headed by Nechirvan Barzani met with the Turkish delegation headed by the Turkish PM Binali Yildirim.
Heading a large ministerial delegation, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim arrived in Erbil late Saturday evening ahead of his scheduled meetings on Monday with top officials in the Kurdistan Region, where he is expected to address a wide range of bilateral issues including trade, investments and the war against Islamic State militants.
The visit to Baghdad was the first trip by a senior Turkish official to Iraq since relations between Ankara and Baghdad deteriorated over Turkish military presence in northern Iraq near Mosul.
Prime Minister Barzani announced last week that the Turkish President Receb Tayyip Erdogan was also planned to visit Iraq and Kurdistan Region in the near future as Ankara tries to mend its strained ties with neighboring countries.
Turkey and Kurdistan Region, however, have managed to maintain strong relations over the past years which have included growing economic partnerships promoting large Turkish investments in Kurdistan.
Turkey was Kurdistan Region’s biggest trading partner before the financial crunch started in 2014 with nearly $8 billion worth of trade exchanged between the two countries, making Erbil the third largest trading partner in Turkey.
“Turkish companies have played a significant role in reconstructing the Kurdistan Region, especially when European firms were unwilling to invest here,” said the former head of Kurdish investment board Hersh Muharram.
“And even after the financial crisis in the Region, several Turkish companies continued their operations despite delayed compensations which was a great support for the ailing economy of the Kurdistan Region,” Muharram added.
Ankara also granted over $1billion of loans to the cash-strapped Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the midst of the financial crunch.
Turkey’s Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak, Customs and Trade Minister Bülent Tüfenkci, Education Minister Ismet Yılmaz and Defense Minister Fikri Işık are accompanying Prime Minister Yıldırım in his visit.
Falah Mustafa, the Kurdish Foreign Minister said that high-level talks will be held between both sides "on issues of common concern [and] interest."
PM Yıldırım nn his joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart said that he is thankful of the Kurdish government and and the Iraqi government for their stance against the presence of the Kurdistan Workers' Paty (PKK) in Sinjar.
“The government in northern Iraq and also the Iraqi central government have promised us that they will not differentiate between one terrorist organization and another. We are thankful to both governments for their sensitivity in fighting terrorist organizations and for their seriousness in expelling terrorist organizations in Sinjar, and we are prepared to cooperate with both governments to fight terrorist organizations.”
The PKK took part in operations to expel ISIS from the Sinjar area in November 2015 and subsequently remained to provide security and train local forces.
The Kurdistan Region objected to the PKK’s prolonged presence and called on them to leave. Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said last month that the PKK was hindering reconstruction of the area and the return of the displaced Yezidi population. In an interview with Al-Monitor, he said he was prepared to use force to expel the PKK.
In recent weeks, however, discussions have been held between Kurdistan Region officials and PKK leaders and they have reached an agreement whereby the PKK will withdraw and only local forces will remain.