The first visit of a Turkish head of state to Iraq for more than 30 years has brought pledges of co-operation on disarming Kurdish separatists.
President Abdullah Gul was given a warm reception by his Iraqi counterpart Jalal Talabani, himself a Kurd. Gul told a news conference that the two countries needed to engage in a joint struggle to eradicate terrorism. Talabani responded with some of the toughest talk yet from an Iraqi leader regarding Kurdish PKK separatists. He said they either had to disarm or get out of Iraq. The PKK wants an independent Kurdish state set up either side of the Turkey-Iraq border. The group, considered terrorists by the US and the European Union, use northern Iraq as a base from which to attack Turkish soil. Turkey’s military regularly shells PKK targets in Iraq and has accused Baghdad in the past of not doing enough to crack down on the rebels. Business was also on the agenda. Officials have talked about a fourfold increase in bilateral trade, which is currently worth a reported 3.5 billion euros. The leaders also discussed Turkish-built dams on the Tigris River that have exacerbated water shortages in Iraq.