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Iraq’s Abadi in Turkey for talks on Kurds

This handout picture released and taken on October 25, 2017 by the Turkish Prime Minister press office shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the Presidential Complex in Ankara. (AFP photo)

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has arrived in Turkey to discuss developments in the Arab country’s Kurdistan region as Baghdad and Ankara seek stronger bonds to deal with the Kurdish independence drive.

Turkey’s state broadcaster TRT said on Wednesday that Abadi arrived in Ankara late morning and went right to the presidential palace to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Iraq has harshly criticized the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for holding a referendum of independence on September 25. Neighbors Turkey and Iran have expressed similar worries, saying the move would further complicate the security situation in Iraq and in the entire Middle East.

After talks with Abadi, Erdogan said Turkey would help Iraq export oil through a pipeline that largely bypasses Kurdistan. Baghdad has called on the KRG to hand over a pipeline that has been used to export oil from the region to Turkey. Erdogan said Ankara would provide “every kind of support” to Baghdad to reopen another damaged pipeline that runs near the northern city of Mosul.

Erdogan also said that Turkey and Iraq were discussing a possible move to close down Turkey’s borders with Kurdistan, which could have a massive impact on the economy of the Kurdish territory.

For his part, Abadi again condemned the KRG for holding the referendum, saying the move was meant to impact Iraq’s territorial integrity.

“With the referendum they tried to break up our territory, they tried to redefine our borders,” Abadi said.

Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani casts his vote in the Kurdish independence referendum at a polling station near Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on September 25, 2017. (AFP photo)

The Kurdish referendum seems to have helped Iraq and Turkey rebuild ties that had been strained over political and military developments in the region over the past years. Baghdad had repeatedly lambasted Ankara for its uncoordinated purchase of the Kurdish oil. The two had also clashed over Turkey’s deployment of a contingent of troops to areas north of Mosul last year when Iraq was busy fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the area.

During his meeting with Erdogan, Abadi also touched upon the issue of Iraqi paramilitary forces, known as the Hashd al-Sha’abi, saying they have been a major help in Iraq’s battle against terror over the past years.

Abadi again dismissed US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s call for dismantling the Popular Mobilization Forces. “The PMF, today, is a part of the state’s security apparatus based on a law approved by the parliament,” he said.

Abadi was also to meet his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim later on Wednesday.

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