Iraq will maintain relations with Iran, PM tells Pompeo

                             By Ibrahim Saleh</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>BAGHDAD (AA) – Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has affirmed his country’s commitment to pursuing “balanced” regional policies, including the maintenance of good relations with neighboring Iran.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Abdul-Mahdi made the remarks in a statement released by his office on Wednesday after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday evening for an hours-long visit.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Describing the U.S. as an “important strategic partner for Iraq”, Abdul-Mahdi went on to assert that his country hoped to “maintain a policy of building bridges… with its friends and neighbors, including Iran”.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Baghdad, he said, hopes to build relations with regional and international capitals “based entirely on Iraq’s best interest”.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>He added: “Iraq has returned to its basic role in the region, providing a venue for dialogue -- not conflict.”</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Pompeo, for his part, commended Iraq’s “efforts to promote regional security and attract foreign investment and expertise”, according to the statement issued by Abdul-Mahdi’s office.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Pompeo also hailed what he described as Baghdad’s “special relationship” with Washington.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>While in the Iraqi capital, Washington’s top diplomat also met with Iraqi President Barham Salih and Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali al-Hakim, along with a number of other top officials.

US secretary of state pays unscheduled visit to Iraq

            By Jeyhun Aliyev</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid an unscheduled visit to Iraq on Tuesday after canceling an official trip to Germany at the last minute.</p>  <p>Pompeo met with Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi, Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali al-Hakim said on Twitter.</p>  <p>Bilateral relations, the latest developments in regional security and counter-terrorism efforts were discussed during the meeting, he added.</p>  <p>The issue of Iraq's exemption from U.S. sanctions against Iran was also addressed.</p>  <p>Pompeo’s visit came a day after the U.S. said Iran posed a growing threat to its forces and interests in the Middle East and two days after National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group along with a bomber task force were being deployed to the U.S. Central Command region to send &quot;a clear and unmistakable message&quot; to Tehran.</p>  <p>The move by Washington is the latest in a series of actions to assert pressure on Iran.</p>  <p>U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration re-imposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports in November after Trump pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal between Tehran, Washington and five other countries.

France's Macron meets Iraqi PM Al-Mahdi in Paris

                By Yusuf Ozcan</p>    <p>PARIS (AA) - French President Emmanuel Macron met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi on Friday at the Elysee Palace in Paris.</p>    <p>&quot;Counterterrorism is one of the priority issues of France. This war has not finished yet,&quot; Macron said at a joint press conference with Al-Mahdi.</p>    <p>He highlighted that France will continue to support Iraq to rebuild.</p>    <p>&quot;France and Iraq combatted together against Daesh,&quot; he said, adding the terror group has not been completely eliminated.</p>    <p>For his part, Abd Al-Mahdi said that the cooperation on counterterrorism should not only continue between Iraq and France, but also between all countries.</p>    <p>Political situation in Iraq has improved with the improvement of the security situation in the country, he added.</p>  <p><br></p>      <p>*Writing by Burak Bir

Turkish jets hit PKK terror targets in northern Iraq

By Baris Gundogan

ANKARA (AA) – Turkish airstrikes hit PKK terrorist targets in northern Iraq, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

In a tweet, the ministry said Turkish jets destroyed weapon positions, shelters, and ammunition depots used by PKK terrorists in the Zap, Avasin-Basyan and Qandil regions.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women and children.

  • Writing by Faruk Zorlu

US Air Force conducts first-ever airstrikes with F-35A

            By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - Two F-35A fighter jets have conducted airstrikes on a Daesh tunnel network in Iraq, marking the first time the aircraft has been flown in a combat mission, U.S. Central Command said Tuesday.</p>  <p> “We have the ability to gather, fuse and pass so much information, that we make every friendly aircraft more survivable and lethal,” said Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th Fighter Squadron commander and F-35A pilot.</p>  <p> “That, combined with low-observable technology, allows us to really complement any combined force package and be ready to support AOR [area of responsibility] contingencies.”</p>  <p>Morris said the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II plane has the ability to gather information from a battlespace in real time and then share it with other F-35s.</p>  <p>The jet is touted as one of the world's most advanced stealth aircraft.</p>  <p>The planes were deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates as part of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the Daesh terrorist group and the threat it poses to Iraq, Syria and the international community.</p>  <p>The strikes come nearly three weeks after a Japanese F-35A jet crashed into the ocean during a training mission.</p>  <p>It was only the second incident where an F-35 crashed in an accident. In September, a U.S. F-35B jet crashed near Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina.</p>  <p> 

Merkel: Germany supports territorial integrity of Iraq

                            By Ayhan Simsek </p>    <p>BERLIN (AA) - Chancellor Angela Merkel has reaffirmed Germany’s support for the territorial integrity of Iraq and pledged closer political and economic ties between the two countries.</p>    <p>Speaking at a joint news conference with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Berlin, Merkel praised the government’s efforts to preserve the unity of Iraq. </p>    <p>“I have once again clearly expressed our support for the territorial integrity of Iraq,” she stressed. </p>    <p>“We have very intensive relations with the regional government in Erbil, but always as an integral part of Iraq, and we will continue to follow this approach,” she added.</p>    <p>Merkel said Germany was interested in further strengthening cooperation with Iraq in the fields of economy, energy and security, and pledged continued support for the reconstruction efforts in Iraq after years of fighting with the Daesh terrorist group.</p>    <p>Following Merkel’s meeting with Abdul-Mahdi at the Chancellery, German technology giant Siemens and Iraq’s Minister of Electricity Luay al-Khateeb signed a memorandum of understanding on upgrading Iraq's electricity infrastructure.</p>    <p>Abdul-Mahdi told reporters that Iraq’s plan to upgrade its electricity infrastructure would consist of four stages, with various projects worth around $14 billion (€ 12.5 billion). </p>        <p>The Iraqi premier said Siemens has had good chances of winning majority of the contracts.

More than 1 million Iraqis still displaced: Official

                                               By Ali Jawad</p>  <p>BAGHDAD (AA) - At least 1.2 million Iraqis are displaced in cities and camps in the northern and western parts of the country, the Iraqi government said Monday.</p>  <p>While some 500,000 displaced people  are in displacement camps throughout the country, 700,000 people are still displaced in cities, Migration and Displacement Ministry Undersecretary Jassem al-Attiya told Anadolu Agency.</p>  <p>Al-Attiya said his agency, in coordination with the UN, launched Monday &quot;a plan for the return of the displaced to their homes within a deadline of one year.&quot;</p>  <p>The plan wants to find solutions to problems that hinder the displaced to return their homes, according to al-Attya. </p>    <p>More than 5 million Iraqis were forced to flee districts in the provinces of Nineveh, Kirkuk, Saladin, Anbar, Diyala, as well as parts of Babil and the outskirts of Baghdad after self-proclaimed Daesh terrorists reportedly overran much of northern and western Iraq in 2014.</p>  <p>After officials in Baghdad declared the terror group’s military presence in Iraq had been all but dismantled following operations backed by the U.S.-led coalition in December 2017, many returned home but some are still unable to return to their neighborhoods because of the destruction of their houses during the war against Daesh, lack of infrastructure and basic services and the instability of the security situation. </p>  <p> </p>  <p> 

Ties with Turkey important, strategic: Iraq’s KRG

                              <p>By Ali Mohamed</p>  <p>ERBIL, Iraq (AA) - The prime minister of Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) on Monday hailed ties with Turkey as &quot;important and strategic.” </p>  <p>Meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Erbil, Nechirvan Barzani expressed his regional government’s readiness to help facilitate Turkish investments in the region, according to a KRG statement. </p>  <p>He expressed the region’s people and government’s thanks to Turkey for supporting the region during its hardships, according to the statement.</p>  <p>In their meeting, Barzani and Cavusoglu discussed boosting ties and trade between the KRG and Turkey as well as opening more border crossings and coordination in fighting terrorism, said the statement. </p>  <p>The meeting also dealt with the situation in the larger Middle East region.</p>  <p>The meeting was held in the presence of a number of KRG officials as well as Turkish Ambassador in Iraq Fatih Yildiz, Turkish Consul in the KRG Hakan Karacay, and Cavusoglu’s delegation.</p>  <p>Cavusoglu arrived on Sunday in Baghdad and held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi as well as other senior Iraqi officials.</p>  

UPDATE 4 – President Erdogan due to visit Iraq toward end of year

UPDATES WITH CAVUSOGLU'S ARRIVAL IN KRG

By Faruk Zorlu and Can Erozden

ANKARA (AA) – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to visit Iraq by the end of this year, Turkey's foreign minister said Sunday.

"President Erdogan will visit Iraq to hold the 4th High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council meeting toward the end of this year," Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a joint news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Mohamed Ali al-Hakim in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Cavusoglu said the two top diplomats discussed bilateral relations in all its dimensions and exchanged views on regional issues.

The views of two countries on regional issues are overlapping, he added.

Speaking about the Astana process for peace in Syria, he said: "We took a decision to invite Iraq and Lebanon as observer countries."

He said he hopes that Iraq, an important country in the region, would play a constructive role in Syria.

Turkey, Russia, and Iran serve as guarantor states in the Astana peace process.

The Astana process has been successful in bringing a cease-fire in Syria and led to the creation of de-escalation zones.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

On the normalization process of Iraq, he underlined the next process should be focused on the reconstruction of Iraq.

"Will use $5 billion pledged for the reconstruction of #Iraq in strategic infrastructure projects in areas destroyed by DEASH," the Turkish foreign minister tweeted using another name for Daesh.

He said Turkey had closed its Mosul and Basra consulates due to threats posed by the Daesh terror group, but now necessary permissions had been given to reopen the consulates.

Additionally, Turkey wants to open consulates in Iraq’s southern city of Najaf and in the northwestern city of Kirkuk.

Praising Iraq's fight against Daesh, he said cooperation between neighboring countries on this issue is important.

Turkey is ready to fight against not only Daesh but also PKK terrorist organization and others, he added.

  • Water management in Iraq

He underlined that the two countries should work together on water management to prevent water crisis in the region.

Turkey will send a special representative to Iraq to share Turkey's experiences on water management.

Also, Cavusoglu met Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi at the presidential complex in Baghdad as part of his visit to Iraq.

In a tweet after the meeting, he said trade volume between Turkey and Iraq "will reach the $20-billion target" and the two countries will "fight together to eradicate PKK from Iraq".

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women and children.

Also, Cavusoglu held a closed-door meeting with the Speaker of Iraq’s Council of Representatives Mohamed al-Halbousi.

He said Turkey is ready to share its experience in water management with Iraq.

  • Visa requirements

Later on Sunday, Cavusoglu told reporters that Turkish visa requirements for Iraqis are not permanent and will be reviewed.

He recalled that in 2018 close to a million Iraqi nationals visited Turkey.

"When the time comes we will lift visas for our (Iraqi) brothers," Cavusoglu said.

He also called on Turkish firms for investing in Basra, a port city.

As part of his official tour to Iraq, Cavusoglu on late Sunday arrived in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.

Prime Minister of northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Nechirvan Barzani, KRG spokesman Safin Dizayi and Turkey's Consul General in Erbil Hakan Karacay welcomed Cavusoglu on his arrival at Erbil International Airport.

The Turkish top diplomat is expected to meet KRG officials on Monday.

  • Mazin Majeed Asaad Baqal contributed to the story from Erbil.

UPDATE 3 – President Erdogan due to visit Iraq toward end of year

UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS BY CAVUSOGLU

By Faruk Zorlu and Can Erozden

ANKARA (AA) – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to visit Iraq by the end of this year, Turkey's foreign minister said Sunday.

"President Erdogan will visit Iraq to hold the 4th High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council meeting toward the end of this year," Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a joint news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Mohamed Ali al-Hakim in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Cavusoglu said the two top diplomats discussed bilateral relations in all its dimensions and exchanged views on regional issues.

The views of two countries on regional issues are overlapping, he added.

Speaking about the Astana process for peace in Syria, he said: "We took a decision to invite Iraq and Lebanon as observer countries."

He said he hopes that Iraq, an important country in the region, would play a constructive role in Syria.

Turkey, Russia, and Iran serve as guarantor states in the Astana peace process.

The Astana process has been successful in bringing a cease-fire in Syria and led to the creation of de-escalation zones.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

On normalization process of Iraq, he underlined the next process should be focused on the reconstruction of Iraq.

"Will use $5 billion pledged for the reconstruction of #Iraq in strategic infrastructure projects in areas destroyed by DEASH," the Turkish foreign minister tweeted using another name for Daesh.

He said Turkey had closed its Mosul and Basra consulates due to threats posed by the Daesh terror group, but now necessary permissions had been given to reopen the consulates.

Additionally, Turkey wants to open consulates in Iraq’s southern city of Najaf and in the northwestern city of Kirkuk.

Praising Iraq's fight against Daesh, he said cooperation between neighboring countries on this issue is important.

Turkey is ready to fight against not only Daesh but also PKK terrorist organization and others, he added.

  • Water management in Iraq

He underlined that the two countries should work together on water management to prevent water crisis in the region.

Turkey will send a special representative to Iraq to share Turkey's experiences on water management.

Also, Cavusoglu met Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi at the presidential complex in Baghdad as part of his visit to Iraq.

In a tweet after the meeting, he said trade volume between Turkey and Iraq "will reach the $20-billion target" and the two countries will "fight together to eradicate PKK from Iraq".

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women and children.

Also, Cavusoglu held a closed-door meeting with the Speaker of Iraq’s Council of Representatives Mohamed al-Halbousi.

He said Turkey is ready to share its experience in water management with Iraq.

  • Visa requirements

Later on Sunday, Cavusoglu told reporters that Turkish visa requirements for Iraqis are not permanent and will be reviewed.

He recalled that in 2018 close to a million Iraqi nationals visited Turkey.

"When the time comes we will lift visas for our (Iraqi) brothers," Cavusoglu said.

He also called on Turkish firms for investing in Basra, a port city.