BAGHDAD, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Visiting Turkish Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that his country is willing to
support Iraq to overcome its "difficulties."
"I assure the people of Iraq that you will always
find us beside you to overcome those difficulties," Erdogan said at a joint
press conference with his Iraqi counterpart Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad.
"I salute the people of Iraq and say to them, be
optimistic that by your unity you will pass the difficulties," he said.
Erdogan said "there won't be international peace
unless peace and security are achieved in Iraq."
Maliki said that Erdogan's visit to Iraq, the first
in 18 years, is "historic," adding the relations between the two countries will
go forward through a new committee for strategic cooperation which will hold
meetings twice a year.
He said Iraqi's success in defying terrorism made
them ready to go for the reconstruction phase.
Erdogan's visit is seen as an effort to boost ties
strained by Turkey's cross-border strikes on the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK)
rebels based in northern Iraq.
Turkey has been frequently assaulted by the PKK
guerrillas who hole up in northern Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region.
The Turkish military has air bombed and fired shells
on the rebel targets and launched ground operations into the Iraqi territory
since the Turkish parliament passed an authorization bill in October 2007.
The operations drew strong reaction from Iraq which
accuses Turkey of violating its sovereignty. Ankara, however, disavows any
attempt on Iraq's territory.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani traveled to Turkey in
March in a bid to mend the rift.
"The terrorist organization of PKK is not only an
enemy to Turkey but also to Iraq," Erdogan said at the press conference, adding
that Turkey will not allow the PKK to poison bilateral and regional relations.
The United States has been pushing the two allies to
avoid a confrontation. A security deterioration in the relatively stable Kurdish
region will put at risk the hard-fought gains in other areas of Iraq.
Given the discord over the PKK issue, neither is
willing to seethe tension escalated.
Turkey is Iraq's major investor, especially in the
northern Kurdish region. Iraq also depends on Turkey to boost its oil exports as
a vital pipeline links the Kirkuk oil field in Iraq to a Turkish port.
A Turkish trade delegation visited Iraq last month to
discuss investment in a wide range of fields, including energy, electricity and
For Iraq, Erdogan' visit also came as a considerable
award to its effort of drumming up diplomatic support from neighboring nations,
especially Arab countries.
Leaders of the Arab nations shunned tours to Iraq
since fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, either out of security concerns or due to
misgivings over the relationship between Iraq's Shiite-led government and Iran.
Maliki has urged Iraq's Sunni neighbors and other
countries to step up diplomatic exchanges with Iraq, including more visits by
government leaders and dispatching ambassadors.
Washington is also calling for greater diplomatic
endorsement so as to counter Iran's growing influence in Iraq.
Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have appointed
ambassadors to Iraq. Bahrain and Kuwait are also poised to do so. On Thursday,
Kuwait also announced it will soon name its first ambassador to Iraq since
Saddam Hussein's troops invaded the country in 1990.
Jordan's King Abdullah II is expected to set out for
Iraq next week, which will make him the first head of an Arab nation to visit
Iraq since 2003.
BAGHDAD, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Baghdad Thursday on a visit aimed at boosting the bilateral ties marred by Turkey's cross-border strikes on rebels based in northern Iraq.
was received at Baghdad airport by his Iraqi counterpart Nuri al-Maliki and
other senior Iraqi officials, including Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Oil
Minister Husseinal-Shahristani, an airport official told Xinhua. Full