First meeting of Turkey-Iraq council forges towards integration, coordination for peace and stability
The First Ministerial Meeting of the Turkey-Iraq High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, a mechanism of joint meetings of the Iraqi and Turkish cabinets, started at Istanbul's Ciragan Palace yesterday, seeking to not only expand bilateral cooperation on an unprecedented scale but also transform Mesopotamia, the cradle of a succession of glorious civilizations, into a prosperous zone of integrated economies. Jointly led by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari, the two-day meeting is also being attended by seven top Turkish Cabinet ministers, including the ministers of trade, energy, transportation, agriculture and the environment, along with their Iraqi counterparts, as well as three deputy ministers. "Today is a historic day for Turkish-Iraqi relations and for our region. We're now bringing to life a brand new model of cooperation," Davutoglu said at the beginning of the meeting, asserting that the two countries want "full and true economic integration." He said, "The projects that we will create from now on will link Basra at Iraq's southern border to Edirne on Turkey's border with Europe. The fates of Baghdad and Istanbul will be shared." Davutoglu also said the meeting would pave the way for a forthcoming meeting of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council in Baghdad, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki presiding. "This is such an important project that, when realized, peoples living side by side for centuries will reunite in a shared economic basin," he said. "Our capabilities and assets will be mobilized to create a very powerful economic region." Stressing that they want Turkey's approach towards Iraq, which is based on an understanding of model partnership, to spread to the entire region, Davutoglu said, "For Turkey, Iraq is a brotherly country whose stability is our own stability, whose welfare is our own welfare, and whose security is our own security." The meeting of Turkish and Iraqi Cabinet ministers came one day after Turkey and Syria signed a deal to create a similar strategic cooperation mechanism during a visit by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Istanbul. "If this process that has started between Turkey and Iraq spreads into the region, the Middle East will no longer remain a region of crisis, tensions and conflicts. It will turn into a very important basin where joint interests and mechanisms of joint political dialogue and security are realized and which can revive that great civilization," Davutoğlu said. Also speaking at the opening of the meeting, Zebari expressed his country's determination to strive to protect the joint interests of Iraq and Turkey. "The Iraqi side wants cooperation that can shape the future of the region, as my counterpart Davutoglu said in his speech," Zebari said, voicing Baghdad's will for a strong and productive bilateral cooperation in the areas of security, the economy, energy, oil, natural gas, water and health. In related news, prior to this meeting, Davutolgu, Zebari, their Syrian counterpart Walid al-Muallem, and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa met as part of efforts to help reconcile Damascus and Baghdad after Iraqi accusations that Syria is harboring the perpetrators of bomb attacks on Iraqi government buildings. During the meeting, Davutolgu urged the two countries to solve their problems through direct dialogue, and avoid accusations, also urging them to forge a strategic cooperation mechanism similar to the one between Iraq and Turkey. Davutoglu also said improving cooperation between Iraq and Syria carries great importance for peace and stability in the Middle East.