Erdoğan Visits Iraq after 13 years, emphasizes cooperation against terrorism

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan landed Monday at Baghdad’s international airport, local media reported, at the start of his first state visit to the neighboring country in 13 years.


Erdoğan is accompanied by Türkiye’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya, Defense Minister Yaşar Güler, Communications Director Fahrettin Altun, his chief advisor Akif Cağatay Kılıç, and other ministers.

Erdoğan met with Iraqi President Abdel Latif Rashid in Baghdad. He told Rashid that Türkiye “had expectations of Iraq regarding the fight against the terrorist organization PKK and that Iraq must be rid of all forms of terrorism,”  according to a statement from Türkiye’s Communications Directorate on X.

The directorate stated that the pair discussed relations between Türkiye and Iraq, as well as Israel’s assaults on Gaza and various regional and global matters.

Erdoğan highlighted the significance of resolving relations between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), a semi-autonomous self-governing body that rules the northern regions of Iraq where the PKK terrorist group has a presence.

He also stated that it is important for the stability of Iraq that Turkmen residents of the region are given the “position they deserve.”

Erdoğan emphasized the ongoing efforts to halt Israel’s atrocities in Gaza and stressed the importance of collective action among Muslim nations.

The visit underscores a pivotal moment in the relationship between the neighbors, with a focus on bolstering cooperation in combating terrorism and fostering multifaceted ties.

Erdoğan’s itinerary includes pivotal meetings in both the capital, Baghdad, and Erbil. At the forefront of the discussions lies the imperative of jointly addressing the threats posed by the PKK, which has long operated in northern Iraqi territories.

A strategic framework agreement encompassing realms such as security, energy, trade, water management, transportation, and health is poised for signing, as per local media.

Cabinet members from both nations will ink a series of nearly 20 agreements, laying the groundwork for future collaboration. Ministries will establish working committees to ensure the effective implementation of these agreements.

Central to Erdoğan’s agenda is a concerted effort to combat terrorism, particularly the PKK menace. Discussions will encompass the establishment of a joint operations center to facilitate coordination and direct communication in counterterrorism efforts, along with providing technical support to Iraqi security forces and intelligence sharing initiatives.

Recent deliberations involving foreign and defense ministers, along with intelligence chiefs from Türkiye and Iraq, resulted in the classification of the PKK as a banned organization within Iraqi borders. Ankara anticipates further progress in this regard during Erdoğan’s visit, advocating for the PKK’s designation as a terrorist entity.

In tandem with security concerns, economic cooperation will be a focal point of discussions. The Development Road Project, aimed at linking Iraq’s burgeoning Grand Faw Port to Türkiye’s southern border, is poised to advance into the implementation phase.

Spanning around 1,200 kilometers (745 miles), the initiative encompasses both railway and highway infrastructure, promising to bolster trade and connectivity between the two nations.

Moreover, efforts to reactivate the Iraq-Türkiye oil pipeline, which has been dormant for a decade, will be reviewed.

Erdoğan’s agenda also includes engagements in Erbil, where he will meet with the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani. Additionally, discussions are expected with officials from the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) and Turkmen community leaders.

Established in 1995, the ITF comprises various Turkmen parties united in their pursuit of bolstering the political representation and rights of the Turkmen community in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Fidan also emphasized the significance of the visit in a speech on April 21.

“As Türkiye, we will work for the stability of Iraq,” he said. “We do not want Iraq to be associated with internal conflicts.”

The minister further mentioned that the Gaza war will also be discussed during the meeting, noting that both sides “have the same sensitivities.”