Relations between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds were mostly marked by tension due to the presence of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq and amid Turkish concerns that Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq could set a precedent among Turkey's Kurds and inflame the PKK violence. But relations have improved dramatically in recent years after the KRG administration committed to cooperating with Turkey in its anti-terror efforts.
In parallel to the political ties, economic relations have flourished with booming Turkish investments in northern Iraq and oil and gas import deals between Turkey and the KRG.
The deals, however, have led to tensions between Turkey and the Iraqi central government, which said Turkey’s oil imports from Iraqi Kurdistan were illegal on the grounds that the oil and gas are the property of all Iraqis and that export revenue should be managed only by the federal government of Iraq. Salih said Iraq, which he said is possibly home to the world’s largest oil reserve, could become a “vibrant economy where oil revenues are utilized to rebuilding our infrastructure, especially transportation and electricity networks, improving the education and health systems.”
“This infrastructure, with the government initiating the much needed structural economic reforms, is bound to unleash the power of the private sector. Further, Iraq and its neighbors can develop an integrated cooperative market, which will facilitate the free flow of goods and services across the region. Yes, it is a dream -- it may well be a distant dream. But if the Europeans could overcome two world wars and centuries of ethnic and sectarian conflict, there is no reason why the nations of the Middle East, with our common heritage and shared interests, cannot do better,” he said. Salih also praised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s economic vision, which he said has delivered “the miracle of Turkey’s economic regeneration.”
“The reforms of the Turkish economy and its economic dynamism across the Middle East could be a catalyst to promoting such an integrated regional market. We can build on shared economic interests, a sustainable political and security order in the Middle East that will replace conflict and repression with freedom and peace,” said the KRG politician.
Salih also said Kurds could play a significant role in developing Iraq’s relations with its neighbors. “We have become an indispensable trade link between Iraq and its neighbors and the gateway for investment and trade with the rest of Iraq,” he said, noting that since its inception as a self-governing entity, Iraqi Kurdistan has become Iraq’s most stable region which also has the best relations with Iraq’s neighbors.
“Iraqi Kurdistan stands out as a model for the rest of Iraq. We must enhance this by political and governmental reforms in Kurdistan and deepening our democratic values and good governance. We must remain active in the affairs of Iraq and ensure that Iraq is administered through a democratic federal system that will be inclusive of all its communities,” he said.