Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Ankara on Wednesday. Photo: @HaiderAlAbadi
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered his country’s support to Iraq in the wake of Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum, including helping to bring back online a damaged oil export pipeline that runs to Turkey’s Ceyhan port.
Erdogan met with Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Ankara on Wednesday to discuss political, military, and economic cooperation between their two nations after the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum last month.
The Turkish leader, speaking to media alongside Abadi after their meeting, said Ankara will provide “every kind of support” to Iraq in repairing and reopening the pipeline that was destroyed by militants in 2014, prior to ISIS capturing territory that the pipeline ran through.
In the wake of the September 25 independence vote, Baghdad has demanded the Kurdistan Region’s oil exports come under federal control, one of a series of steps the Iraqi government has taken as it tries to exert authority in the autonomous region.
Abadi said the work of his government is to prevent the partitioning of Iraq and further bloodshed and he thanked Turkey for their solidarity.
“Turkey stood by our side against efforts to divide Iraq by the leaders of the Kurdistan Region,” he said.
“We all live in the same region and we have to work together in order for our people to live in peace and security,” the Iraqi leader continued.
Erdogan stressed his support for the territorial integrity of Iraq and said Turkey would cooperate with Baghdad on oil exports and border crossings after Kurdistan’s “illegitimate” referendum.
Turkey has threatened it could close its borders with the Kurdistan Region, but has not yet taken action.
Erdogan also warned against growing influence of the armed Kurdish group, the PKK, a named terrorist organization, in Iraq.
“I believe that the remaining ISIS terror organization will be cleared. We know that the PKK terrorist organization wants to take advantage of the situation,” Erdogan said. “There is PKK presence in regions such as Qandil, Sinjar. We are determined to continue joint struggle in solidarity in all these regions.”
The PKK has its headquarters in Kurdistan Region’s Qandil mountains. It also has a presence in the Yezidi region of Shingal, also known as Sinjar, where it has remained after helping defeat ISIS.
Abadi travelled to Ankara in the company of his interior, oil, electricity, and planning ministers as well as his national security advisor.
He also met with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim who said his government “will continue to coordinate with Iraq in the fields of security and reconstruction and trade.”
He also pledged to help Baghdad take control of Turkey’s border with the Kurdistan Region. “We will provide the necessary support to the federal government to hand over the administration of Habur-Ibrahim Khalil crossing to the central government,” he said.
Abadi thanked Yildirim for Turkey’s support for Iraq’s unity.
"Mr Prime Minister, the strong cooperation between Iraq and the neighbouring countries next to northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and the cooperation with the international community had a big impact on standing against the efforts for division that were conducted by the leaders of the Kurdistan Region,” he said.
Abadi is due to also visit Iran.
The Iraqi PM departed on his trip a few hours after the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced it was willing to freeze the results of the independence referendum in order to give open dialogue with Baghdad a chance.
Yildirim responded to the KRG’s announcement with his own statement early Wednesday morning.
“Why did you insist on this mistake if that would be the point you would arrive at? Why didn’t you listen to Turkey’s advice?” he asked, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
Kurdistan held a referendum on September 25 and 92.7 percent of ballots cast were a 'Yes' for independence from Iraq. Baghdad responded with a series of punitive measures and militarily took control of disputed areas.