Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said on Sunday he would favor improved relations between Turkey and his central government in Baghdad.
“We favor the strengthening of relations between the governments. And we want relations with Turkey to be better than they were before,” Maliki told the Anadolu Agency.
Maliki stated that Iraq would be happy if Turkey wants to boost ties not with Iraqi groups but with the central government, adding that Iraq would support such a development in that direction.
Maliki also touched on tensions between the central government and the regional Kurdish administration in the country's north when Baghdad sent federal troops to control a border crossing with Syria, putting them in confrontation with Kurdish peshmerga forces.
Maliki stated that he did not consider it as “tensions” because Iraq has a federal structure which authorizes the Iraqi army to deploy troops anywhere inside Iraq, including regional administrations.
“The peshmerga misinterpreted the deployment of federal troops as an attack on their own administration but the problem was resolved when they understood the true nature of the deployment, which was the developments in Syria,” Maliki said.
Earlier on Saturday, Iraq's prime minister urged Turkey to deal with his country through the central government in Baghdad, criticizing Ankara's direct outreach to Iraq's self-ruling Kurdish region.
Maliki said in a statement that Iraq rejects efforts by Turkey to treat the Kurds' northern territory “as though it is an independent state.”
He added that if Turkey wants to maintain good regional relations, it must do so through Iraq.
Turkish-Iraqi relations have recently become strained due to Turkey's separate oil deal with Iraq's northern Kurdish region. Baghdad warned Turkey that its separate deal with the region could damage trade relations between Iraq and Turkey.
Baghdad maintains that the region has no right to sign deals unilaterally and that exports must go through the state-run pipelines, while the Kurds argue that its constitution does in fact give them the right to sign agreements without consulting Baghdad.
Relations were further strained after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recently paid a surprise visit to an oil-rich Iraqi city claimed by both the central government and the country's autonomous Kurdistan region without first consulting with Iraqi authorities.
Following the visit, the Iraqi government announced that it would reconsider its ties with Turkey.
The Maliki government has slammed Turkey for pursuing “hostile” policies in the region and interfering in Iraqi affairs due to Turley's support for Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraq's Sunni vice president, who faces charges of terrorism in his own country. Ankara says Maliki's Shiite-led government is trying to monopolize power by suppressing Sunni Arabs and other groups.