Turkish PM tests Iraqi relations

Turkish PM tests Iraqi relations

Turkish PM Binali Yildirim is slated to begin a two-day visit to Iraq on Friday. The premier is expected to

Photo: Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters/Landov

Photo: Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters/Landov

Turkish PM Binali Yildirim is slated to begin a two-day visit to Iraq on Friday. The premier is expected to visit Baghdad and the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil to discuss security and counter-terrorism cooperation.

The relationship between Turkey and Iraq has been frosty in recent months. Ankara found itself at loggerheads with its southern neighbour late last year over a small contingent of Turkish troops stationed in Bashiqa, northern Iraq. Turkey insists the troops are providing vital training to Arab and Kurdish forces fighting ISIS, but Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi called their continued presence “not acceptable by any standards”.

Mr Abadi is concerned that Turkey wants to exert more influence in northern Iraq, where it is on good terms with the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government. The area is a former Ottoman stronghold, with strong historical, cultural and trade ties to Turkey.

Friday’s visit will test relations. In the face of ongoing insurgencies, the two neighbours need to cooperate on security matters, but grander strategic issues may undermine the relationship.