The political will of our President Erdoğan and the ground-based diplomatic activism of Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan have initiated a significant process, marking the start of a new era in Türkiye-Iraq relations

Joint commissions have been established, and preliminary work has been conducted at the technical level on important topics such as the Development Road Project, water management, and investments by Turkish companies in Iraq

Reflecting on Türkiye-Iraq relations, we observe a dynamic narrative characterized by significant challenges and opportunities. Although the occupation, internal conflicts, and proxy wars in Iraq have undeniably overshadowed its relations with Türkiye, it is also apparent that the two countries have not fully capitalized on the potential inherent in their relationship. Now, with the demonstrated political will from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the positive response from his Iraqi counterparts, it is fair to say that a new chapter has begun. In this context, President Erdoğan’s visit to Iraq on April 22 can be viewed as a significant milestone. Lately, there has been a strategic rapprochement between Türkiye and Iraq, largely orchestrated by Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan. The relationships fostered by Fidan during his tenure as the head of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) evolved into diplomacy grounded in field realities during his term at the Foreign Ministry.

This dynamic has catalyzed a process paving the way for a strategic partnership in Türkiye-Iraq relations. Alongside eco-political matters, there has been a notable shift in Iraq’s approach towards Türkiye, particularly concerning security policy and counterterrorism efforts. The visits of Foreign Minister Fidan, Minister of National Defense Yaşar Güler, and Head of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) İbrahim Kalın, along with the subsequent “Security Mechanism Talks”, have advanced the process to its current stage. Once more, the respective ministers have convened on numerous occasions to address critical issues between the parties. Joint commissions have been established, and preliminary work has been conducted at the technical level on important topics such as the Development Road Project, water management, and investments by Turkish companies in Iraq. In this context, the determination to address threats collectively and the endeavours to align interests epitomize a new paradigm.

PRESIDENT ERDOĞAN’S VISIT TO IRAQ

During his visit to Iraq at a critical juncture amidst regional conflicts, President Erdoğan held tête-à-tête meetings with his Iraqi counterpart Abdullatif Rashid and Prime Minister Mohammad Shia Sudani, alongside delegation discussions. During the negotiations, 26 cooperation agreements were signed between the two countries. Indeed, prior to the April 22 visit, there were high expectations from both sides, as reflected in their statements. Particularly noteworthy was the statement by Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Sudani, emphasizing that “Erdoğan’s visit to Iraq will not be an ordinary visit, and for the first time, there is a will between the two countries to resolve issues instead of postponing them”. Iraqi government spokesperson Basim Awwadi’s statement, highlighting that “President Erdoğan’s visit will mark a significant and qualitative leap in Iraq-Türkiye relations”, further underscored the anticipation surrounding the visit. In the end, the visit indeed lived up to these expectations.

President Erdoğan was warmly received by Iraq, and the signing of a memorandum of understanding to solidify the Development Road Project, which both countries consider of great strategic importance, marked a significant development. This project, born out of a shared-interest approach, will encompass a network of roads and railways extending from the Persian Gulf to Ovaköy in Türkiye. The Development Road Project will also offer a crucial alternative in terms of regional supply and transportation chains, thereby enhancing the strategic value of both countries. The project has emerged as a highly valuable initiative in providing a significant alternative for global transportation and logistics lines. This is especially pertinent at a time when the Russia-Ukraine conflict threatens transportation and logistics routes in the north, and Israel’s incursion into Gaza disrupts transportation in the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The participation of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar as partners in the project underscores its potential to generate new value not only for the two countries but also for the entire region.

ECO-POLITICS OF STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP

In the journey towards a strategic partnership between Türkiye and Iraq, ensuring mutual national security, jointly combating terrorism, securing Iraq’s internal stability, and recognizing the Development Road Project as a strategic asset are crucial determinants. Besides these factors, economic interests and opportunities, particularly mutual trade volume, emerge as significant catalysts. Iraq stands as one of Türkiye’s most crucial export markets, underscoring the importance of boosting bilateral trade volume. Turkish Trade Minister Ömer Bolat’s statement, indicating that “Iraq’s exports are targeted to reach USD 15 billion in the near term and USD 20 billion by 2030, with the completion of the Development Road Project”, underscores the relevant objectives.

It is worth noting that during the press conference following his meeting with Prime Minister Sudani, President Erdoğan highlighted that both parties expressed a commitment to increasing bilateral trade volume. He mentioned that joint standing committees had been established to lay the groundwork for achieving this goal. Removing obstacles to the export of Iraqi oil to the world through Türkiye also brings economic benefits for both Türkiye and Iraq. Both sides are eager to break free from the “lose-lose” spiral. Türkiye is also awaiting steps from the Iraqi side regarding the compensation awarded against it. Increasing investments by Turkish companies in Iraq is also one of the agreed-upon issues between the parties.

As a result, regional dynamics, as well as shared interests, serve as the primary incentives for the two countries to collaborate. Moreover, the new Turkish foreign policy paradigm adopts a strategic approach aimed at advancing common interests. President Erdoğan’s political determination and Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan’s diplomatic efforts, grounded in the realities on the ground, have initiated a significant process heralding the dawn of a new era in Türkiye-Iraq relations.