Iraqi Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Masrour Barzani met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Ankara on Tuesday to discuss the “overall situation in Iraq”and the two governments’ further cooperation in security and trade.
Barzani said he was “pleased” to meet with Erdoğan and shared a photo of the two leaders together. There were two Turkish flags behind them in the photo, but the flag of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) was not included.
“Both parties agreed on the importance of strengthening bilateral relations and expanding opportunities for cooperation and coordination, with a specific focus on regional security and stability,” Barzani’s office said in a statement.
The meeting came on day 88 of Turkey’s suspension of oil flow through the purpose-built pipeline in the KRI, which Reuters estimates has cost Barzani’s government more than $2.2 billion.
The International Chamber of Commerce ordered Ankara to pay Baghdad $1.5 billion in damages for unauthorised exports via the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) which bypassed the central government. As a result, Turkey suspended the oil flow.
The pipeline halt has reduced KRI revenue by 80 percent, Reuters said, citing a letter by members of the US Congress to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The region risks a “significant humanitarian crisis”, the politicians said.
A Turkish energy delegation and Iraqi oil officials met in Baghdad on Monday to resolve the issue, however, two officials speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity said resumption of the oil flow “will not happen today”, and that the matter “needs political talks on higher levels”, as the standstill was not due to a technical shortcoming but a political one.
The KRG has agreed to hand over control of the region’s oil to Iraq’s State Organisation for Marketing of Oil (SOMO) in return for a 12.67 percent allocation from the central government’s 2023 budget, which comes to $153 billion.
Meanwhile, Turkey continues its military operations and maintains thousands of troops on Iraqi soil, which the government believes are essential to their fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), headquartered in the region’s Qandil mountains. Several civilians have been killed in these operations, leading to increased tensions with the region’s opposition parties and the KRG.
At the same time as the Barzani-Erdoğan meeting, a Turkish drone strike in northern Syria killed two civilian officials from the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), according to local news reports. The two women were Qamishli (Qamişlo) Canton co-chair Yusra Derwêş and her deputy Lîman Şiwêş. Derwêş’s driver Firat Tûma was also killed, while her co-chair in the town on the Turkish border, Gabî Şemûn, was wounded in the same attack.
“Of course it cannot be said that Masrour Barzani had anything to do with this,” journalist Fehim Işık said in a tweet. “But such relaxed meetings with those who commit these murders only strengthen the hand of the occupiers.”
As the KRG develops ever closer relations with Turkey, the Turkish government’s refusal to acknowledge Kurdish autonomy in the neighbouring country has not shifted. Many politicians refuse to use the official name of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and the region’s flag “has disappeared, likely gathering dust in the palace cupboard” since the 2015 collapse of a peace process between Ankara and the PKK, and Erdoğan’s alliance with far-right elements, as journalist Amberin Zaman said in an article for al-Monitor.