UPDATES WITH TURKISH DEFENSE MINISTER'S MEETING WITH IRAQI PRESIDENT, PRIME MINISTER
By Sarp Ozer and Haydar Karaalp
ANKARA / BAGHDAD (AA) – Turkey's top defense official, along with the country's chief of General Staff, arrived in the Iraqi capital for an official visit, the National Defense Ministry announced Monday.
National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Gen. Yasar Guler met with senior Iraqi officials in Baghdad, including President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, and Defense Minister Jouma Anad.
Combating terrorism was the main focus of discussions during the visit, as well as a joint cooperation between Turkey and Iraq, said a ministry statement.
On his first stop, Akar was welcomed with a military ceremony by his Iraqi counterpart before they met one-on-one as well as delegation discussions.
Speaking at the meeting, Akar praised the close relations between Turkey and Iraq, saying the region is going through a "sensitive" period.
"We can overcome the difficulties in our region together … We respect Iraq's territorial integrity, sovereignty, well-being and prosperity," Akar said.
He further stressed Turkey’s determination to protect its border security and its readiness for all means of cooperation with Iraq, saying that this would be critical in fighting the terrorist group PKK, which is based in Iraq.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. It often uses its border bases in Iraq to plot attacks against Turkey.
Later, Al-Kadhimi received Akar and Guler at the government palace.
During the meeting, they discussed common issues of interest and boosting military solidarity between the two countries, according to the Iraqi Prime Ministry press office.
Al-Kadhimi said the agreements the two countries reached during his visit to Ankara last month must come into force.
Al-Kadhimi visited Turkey on Dec.17 to discuss bilateral and economic ties as well as regional developments.
He also highlighted the importance of Turkey fulfilling the financial pledges it gave at the 2018 International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq.
-Terrorism, military cooperation
Al-Kadhimi said Iraq rejects terrorist attacks carried out from Iraqi territories against Turkey.
He said that Turkey's support is needed for strengthening Iraqi army.
Akar, for his part, said that Turkish Armed Forces is ready to support the Iraqi army in the fields of counter-terrorism, training, and consultancy, according to an Iraqi Prime Ministry statement.
Both sides agreed to eliminate terrorist threats in their common border regions, Akar said.
Akar and Guler were also received by President Barham Salih at the Presidential Palace.
During the meeting, the two sides discussed cooperation in all areas, according to an Iraqi Presidency statement.
Salih highlighted the importance of reducing tension in the region and regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
Akar, for his part, said that Turkey respects Iraq's sovereignty and stability and stressed the importance of joint solidarity and coordination.
Later, Akar met with Iraqi Interior Minister Othman Al-Ghanimi.
Speaking at a welcoming ceremony, Akar said Turkey is ready to give the necessary support for efforts to clear Iraq of all terrorist groups, especially Daesh/ISIS and the PKK.
Afterward, Akar also visited a cemetery and museum built in memory of those who lost their lives during the fight against Daesh/ISIS.
“Cooperation between Turkey and Iraq is of critical importance for ensuring stability and security in the region,” Akar wrote in a memorial guestbook.
*Writing by Merve Aydogan and Zehra Nur Duz