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.