Arbil, October 31: Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu arrived in the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq on Friday, as part of Ankara’s efforts to end a conflict with Kurdish rebels based across its southern border.
Davutoglu’s visit to Arbil, the first by a Turkish minister to the region, will include talks with Kurdish president Massud Barzani, and follows a short trip to Iraq’s southern port of Basra, where he opened a new Turkish consulate.
The visit is also a sign of improving ties between Baghdad and Ankara, and follows a trip to Baghdad by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier in the month.
Davutoglu, Trade Minister Zafer Caglayan and a delegation of around 70 officials and businessmen were received at the airport by Kurdish prime minister Barham Saleh and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd.
They did not make any statements or speak to the press.
Turkey has been involved in a 25-year-long bloody conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has rear bases in Iraq, that has claimed around 45,000 lives.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, took up arms for self-rule in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.
Turkish-Iraqi ties have gathered steam since they formed a joint committee with the United States last November to combat the PKK. It meets every two months to exchange intelligence and to coordinate security measures against the rebels.
Earlier on Friday, Davutoglu and Caglayan visited Basra to open a new Turkish consulate. Turkey already has an embassy in Baghdad and a consulate in the northern city of Mosul.
It is planning to open another consulate, in Arbil, shortly.
“This visit is to crown the improved relations between Iraq and Turkey, and showcases joint trade and economic cooperation between the two countries,” Iraq’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Safaldin al-Safi told reporters after receiving the Turkish delegation in Basra.