Iraq talks water sharing with Turkey, asks for patience on Kurd rebels

Wext: Friday, 20.August. @ 00:00:00 CEST


ANKARA, Aug 17 (AFP) - 13h56 - Iraq is eager to boost ties with neighboring Turkey, Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar said here Tuesday, while cautioning that no immediate action should be expected against Turkish Kurd rebels hiding in northern Iraq, a key Ankara demand.

Yawar said the two sides had begun talks on the sharing of the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, a long-standing dispute between the two neighbors.

"We came to ask for water and Allah gave us what we wanted," Yawar told reporters jokingly in reference to heavy rains that have hit Turkey.

"Our talks on the issue will continue," he said, without elaborating.

Iraq, along with Syria, have long complained that their northern neighbor, which has built a number of dams, is monopolizing the waters of the two major rivers, which originate in Turkey and flow on south to their territories.

Yawar was speaking at the end of a two-day visit to Ankara, his first foreign trip as interim president.

"We had very productive discussions... We are in agreement on all issues we discussed and there is no outstanding problem," he said.

Yawar, however, cautioned that Iraqi action on a key Turkish demand -- a crackdown on separatist Turkish Kurd rebels hiding in northern Iraq -- might take time as Baghdad is striving to build new security forces and combat insurgents across the conflict-torn country.

"We would call upon the international community to understand that. It's a matter of time. And hopefully it will be a short time," he said.

Thousands of rebels from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), now known as KONGRA-GEL, have sought refuge in mountainous northern Iraq since 1999 when they announced a unilateral truce following a bloody war for self-rule in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey.

Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer told Yawar Monday that Iraq should clamp down on the guerrillas, who called-off their truce on June 1 and stepped up attacks on government targets.

"We want to be a source of stability and peace for our neighbors. Whoever is trying to terrorize our neighbors, including Turkey, we will not tolerate," Yawar said.

He also pledged that Iraq would soon allow Turkey to reopen its consulate in the northern city of Mosul.

Earlier in the day, Yawar met with Turkish businesspeople and encouraged them to boost investment in Iraq, which used to be one of Turkey's principal trade partners before the 1990 Gulf War.

Turkish Foreign Trade Minister Kursat Tuzmen said the uninterrupted flow of oil through a pipeline from Kirkuk to Turkey's Mediterranean coast, which is frequently hit by sabotages, and Turkish participation in oil projects in Iraq were key to the development of economic exchanges.

Turkish companies are keen on trading with Iraq, but a recent series of abductions of Turkish truck drivers and the killing of a Turkish worker by hostage-takers have raised alarm among the business community.

Tuzmen said some 1,000 Turkish companies were currently active in Iraq.

Bilateral trade volume is expected to reach two billion dollars by the end of the year, and the target for 2005 is five billion dollars, he said.

Both sides said they were eager to finish work on the opening of a second border crossing between the two countries in order to facilitate the ferrying of goods.

Source: AFP

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