Gökhan Kurtaran- ARBIL – Hürriyet Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Iraqi Kurd leader Barzani (L) meets Çağlayan who hails Arbil as his home. AA photo
Turkey supports the unity and stability of Iraq, according to Turkey’s Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, who expressed disappointment with Iraq’s prime minister’s recent comments on Turkey’s role in the region during a visit to Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) cities yesterday.
“Our visit here to Arbil and Suleymanyah itself is a message,” said Çağlayan after his 45-minute meeting with Masoud Barzani, the president of KRG, at his command center in Selahaddin. Later in a forum in Arbil, Çağlayan said, “Arbil mala mıne ji,” which means “Arbil is my house” in Kurdish, while addressing local businessmen there.
“We are thinking in the same way about Iraq’s future” with the northern Iraqi administration, said Çağlayan at a press meeting at Barzani’s headquarters nearly 20 km to the north of Arbil.
However, he also said Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s strongly worded statement Jan. 13 in an interview with private broadcaster al-Hurra was “upsetting.” “Turkey is playing a big role that might bring disaster and civil war to the region, and Turkey will suffer because it has different sects and ethnicities,” al-Maliki said.
“We want Iraq to become a united welfare country,” Çağlayan said. “Turkey has never intervened in the internal affairs of other countries and will never intervene. A single united Iraq respecting all religions and ethnic roots is our desire.”
Çağlayan also met with Nechervan Barzani, the leader of the Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party, during a breakfast yesterday, prior to his meeting with Masoud Barzani.
“Both Nechervan Barzani and Masoud Barzani are thinking the way we are,” said Çağlayan, signaling that the Ankara-Arbil ties were in a deeper spat. The Turkish minister’s trip, however, did not include Baghdad.
“Trade and politics are separate matters,” Çağlayan said about last week’s call by some members of Iraqi Parliament to cut trade relations with Turkey.
“Syria has tried to cut ties with us; but on the second day, they continued to trade,” Çağlayan said, adding that Turkey is dedicated to increase bilateral trade ties with its southern neighbor. “Until now we have received no sign or any notification from the Iraqi government regarding such issues,” he said.
“We will continue increasing our bilateral trade with Iraq,” Çağlayan said, adding that the total trade volume of both countries hit nearly $12 billion by the end of last year. He also said nearly 70 percent of trade is done with the northern administration of Iraq.
Turkey’s total exports to Iraq rose to $8.5 billion by the end of last year, ranking Iraq as Turkey’s second biggest export destination, Çağlayan said, adding that Turkish businessmen have approximately $16 billion of direct investment in the country.
$400 million deal
The central government of Iraq still supports good relations with Turkey, Çağlayan said, adding that the central government approved two important business deals Jan. 17.
Iraq’s Electricity Ministry approved the electricity distribution deal for $235 million to be run by Enka and a hospital project in Baghdad to be built for $125 million by Dorçe, a Turkish construction company.