Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has reached out to Turkey to restore soured relations, saying that Iraq is ready to establish peace with Turkey if Ankara ceases to interfere with Iraq's internal affairs and repatriates its fugitive vice president.
Speaking to a local TV channel, Maliki said Baghdad wants to mend ties with Turkey based on several conditions.
“We will be pleased to see the presence of Turkey and Turkish companies in Iraq if Ankara respects Iraq, doesn't interfere in our domestic affairs and doesn't violate Iraq's airspace,” Maliki stressed.
Maliki and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have publicly traded insults several times this year as relations have soured.
Both prime ministers have engaged in tit-for-tat accusations over the past months. Erdoğan accused Maliki of amassing power in Baghdad at the expense of other political groups in the country. Erdoğan also blasted his counterpart several times for hounding political opponents and fomenting sectarian tension in the politically fragile country.
In return, Maliki has vehemently criticized the Turkish prime minister for meddling in Iraq's internal affairs.
Maliki acknowledged in the interview that that some positive steps have been taken to alleviate tensions between the two countries, without further elaborating.
Relations between Turkey and Iraq have become strained over a number of issues, both political and economic. Most recently, Ankara angered Baghdad by declaring that it would not extradite fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi after he was sentenced to death on charges of running death squads. The two countries are also at odds over a recent deal between Ankara and the Iraqi Kurdish administration allowing the Iraqi Kurds to export oil and gas through Turkey.
Maliki pointed to Hashemi, who was sentenced to death for the third time this week and is residing in Turkey, saying it is unacceptable that Turkey is provoking Iraqis by sheltering a criminal.
Relations between Ankara and Baghdad have also been tense due to what Turkey perceives as the Iraqi Shiite-led government's attempt to monopolize power at the expense of other groups in the country.
Ankara says the Maliki government is trying to monopolize power by suppressing Sunni Arabs and other groups, while Maliki accuses Turkey of pursuing “hostile” policies in the region and interfering in Iraqi affairs, due to Turkey's support for Hashemi.
Maliki said in the interview that Iraq is not discriminating against one country in favor of another in foreign affairs within the framework of respect to Iraq's sovereignty. But he said this situation would change if there were an intervention in Iraq's internal affairs.
“We want good relations with you. If you also offer good relations, you will see Iraq's desire to end the rift,” said Maliki.
Saying that Iraq does not want to see Turkey and other neighboring countries damaged, Maliki said these nations must be in the best shape possible for the region to embrace stability.
Indeed, the main point of contention between the two nations is the uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ankara wants Assad to leave power, while Baghdad, which has close ties to Assad's ally Iran, has been hesitant to take a stance on the Syrian conflict.
As a sign of willingness to renew political relations with Iraq, the undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, invited his Iraqi counterpart, Labid Abbawi, to Turkey for talks, and expressed the Turkish position in regards to the current state of affairs and the future of Turkish-Iraqi relations, the ministry announced in a statement on Sept. 17. Iraq has not responded as yet.