Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) sits with Iraqi President Barham Salih (R) in Baghdad on Thursday. Photo: Iraqi presidency
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Water topped the agenda in friendly meetings between Iraqi leaders and Turkey’s foreign minister in Baghdad on Thursday.
“Turkey-Iraq relations will be much stronger in the new period,” tweeted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu after meetings with Iraqi leaders, including President Barham Salih, Prime Minister-designate Adil Abdul-Mahdi, and parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi.
In the meeting with Abdul-Mahdi, “they discussed boosting relations between the two countries in various aspects and working to solve the outstanding issues, especially in the field of water,” read a statement from the PM-designate’s office.
Iraq gets the majority of its water from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Both originate in Turkey, which is building new dams on the waterways. Climate change and aging infrastructure have also contributed to a growing water crisis in Iraq.
Halbousi said he got a confirmation from Cavusoglu that Turkey will increase the amount of water it releases to its downstream neighbor – an issue the speaker discussed
with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Wednesday.
Iraq’s water crisis was a factor in deadly protests in Basra this summer.
Iraqi President Barham Salih and Cavusoglu agreed that a “permanent strategic agreement” is needed between their nations over water, according to a statement from Salih’s office on their meeting.
Salih and Cavusoglu both expressed a keenness to cement ties between their countries, with Salih calling for “balanced and fruitful relations.”
Iraq faces the monumental task of reconstruction after the war with ISIS. Cavusoglu said Turkey is ready to develop relations in all fields and expressed support for Iraq’s unity, according to the statement from Salih’s office.
He announced that Turkey will reopen its consulates in Basra and Mosul that were closed for security reasons.
Relations between Baghdad and Ankara have been seen their ups and downs. Baghdad condemned Turkey’s military operations within Iraqi borders, but appreciated Ankara’s condemnation of the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum. Baghdad would also like to build an oil pipeline to Turkey.
Cavusoglu is scheduled to also visit Erbil.