Turkish PM visits Iraq for security talks as ties thaw

AFP , Thursday 20 Nov 2014

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his Iraqi counterpart Haidar al-Abadi held talks Thursday in Baghdad on security cooperation, in a sign of an easing in the long-strained ties between their countries.

Iraq is battling to retake large areas overrun by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group while Turkey borders territory which the militants control in neighbouring Syria.

Davutoglu "offered Turkish military assistance to Iraq," Abadi said at a joint news conference, later adding that this could include arming and training members of Iraq's planned national guard.

Iraqi volunteer forces "need training... and we may discuss training these forces in neighbouring Turkey," Abadi said.

The Iraqi premier also said that he agreed to visit Turkey next month.

Davutoglu's trip to Iraq follows a visit to Turkey by Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari earlier this month that was aimed at patching up the chilly ties between the two neighbours.

Ankara's decision to aid Iraq's Kurdish region independently export oil has angered Baghdad, which considers it illegal.

And Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now Turkey's president, repeatedly clashed with Abadi's predecessor, Nuri al-Maliki.

The two countries have also disagreed over the protracted Syrian civil war.

Shiite majority Iraq is seen to prefer Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam. In contrast, Sunni Muslim Turkey backs the rebel groups, mostly Sunni, fighting to overthrow Assad.

Previous attempts to patch up Iraqi-Turkish relations were unsuccessful but prospects appear improved now that the two countries both have new governments.

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